§ Again considered in Committee.
Question again proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £40, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services relating to Foreign Affairs and the foreign policy of this country and the Dominions, for the year ending on the 3rst day of March, 1945:
|Class I, Vote 4, Treasury and Subordinate Departments||£10|
|Class II, Vote 1, Foreign Office||£10|
|Class II, Vote 3, League of Nations||£10|
|Class II, Vote 4, Dominions Office||£10|
§ Captain Grey
I want to ask again that the National Committee of Liberation in Algiers be recognised by us, if necessary unilaterally, as the Provisional Government of France. There are many provisos we can make to see that an authoritarian régime is not imposed upon the French people. We can make recognition conditional on the holding of free elections once the French prisoners of war have been returned from Germany when the war is over. When we have destroyed Germany in Europe we have not only to make certain of our own influence, but we have to make use of that fine reservoir of French culture that permeates throughout the whole of Europe. I am sure that after the experience of 1940 and the subsequent years France will recover with a rapidity that will surprise us to-morrow as it surprised us in 1871–72. The Noble Lord the Member for Lanark advocated security in Western Europe through a system of alliances, but it seems quite clear to me that the failure of alliances, as opposed to some such aim as federation, is that many small Western European countries have proved incapable of standing on their own economically, and were therefore bound in the end to be dominated by one large industrial Power, which proved before the war to be Germany. Those small nations must surely now desire to merge as free units into a larger federation capable of standing on its own. I believe that it is our interest and our duty to see that we nourish such an aspiration.
In conclusion I would say that a large number of the ideas produced to-day seem to be based on the thesis that another war, if not inevitable, is likely. I believe that if we approach the problems of peace in that atmosphere, not only 831 will another war be likely but it will become inevitable. One thing, however, is absolutely certain; that it is to the interest of all Powers, including the United States, the Soviet Union, France, China and ourselves, to have a lengthy period of peace for our own respective developments. If, ignoring this, we are to develop the logic of power politics, merging into larger and larger groups of alliance without international control, we shall eventually have a war of complete annihilation between merely two groups, fully as unsatisfactory a solution as could be devised even under the present system of innumerable sovereign States. I am equally certain that the only other cause of war, apart from Power politics caused by fear and distrust, can come in the breakup of our Commonwealth and Empire.
The breakup of an Empire always causes opportunities for war but we know in this House, whatever other nations may believe, that the chances of our Empire and Commonwealth breaking up are nil. We must plan peace on the assumption that peace is not only possible, but is a matter of self-interest to the rest of the world. We have to prepare in advance for peace, in the same way as preparing for war. It would be hopeless to have to improvise suddenly, upon the collapse of Germany. Improvisation was one of the main causes of this war. Year after year we were faced with sudden situations to which we had to react quickly. We had not foreseen events, so events controlled us. Surely, now is our opportunity to say on behalf of the members of our Commonwealth what we desire. If we say it clearly, other nations will follow our lead, and I am sure that lasting peace can be built up, but it will need courage on the part of our statesmen and energy and robustness from our people.
§ Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
I agree with the concluding remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Captain Grey) when he said that we should refrain from entering peace, having to improvise our foreign affairs as we went along, and having nothing but an opportunist policy. In the very brilliant speech which was made by my Noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) earlier in the Debate he 832 quite rightly said that it was absolutely necessary that Great Britain and the Empire should look after their own interests. He was criticised for that observation, not quite fairly, by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who rather suggested that the Noble Lord's idea was that we should look after our own selfish interests only, regardless of what the rest of the world might think or the effect that it might have upon the rest of the world. I am sure that that was not the Noble Lord's idea. Those of us who take a realistic view of foreign politics feel strongly that, while we should not act selfishly and try to grab everything we can for ourselves and the Empire, nevertheless, if we do not look after ourselves it is certain that nobody else will.
My main object in speaking to-day is to draw attention to some failures of British foreign policy in the past with particular attention to the League of Nations. I will try to make out my case in as dispassionate a way as possible, in order that those who disagree with my conclusions may at least agree with the facts. At its highest point, which was in 1935, the League of Nations consisted of some 61 States. That number has now fallen, on paper, to 45. I elicited the information in reply to a question put to the Foreign Secretary that in 1942 only six of the 45 were paying their contribution in full and that those States all happened to be members of the British Empire. They were the self-governing Dominions and Great Britain herself. The rest paid token payments and in some cases arrears. In other cases they had made specific payments for certain subjects. The remaining 26 Member States valued the League of Nations, so far as money contributions indicated, at precisely nil. They still remained honorary members of the club, but it could hardly be claimed by any reasonable observer that a club in such a condition is really in a flourishing state.
It is often claimed that the League in its wider activities has done a great deal of good work, such as the suppression of the drug traffic and the traffic in women and in various other directions. I am inclined to think, and I have had no evidence to the contrary, that that good work League of Nations or by the I.L.O., but was mainly accomplished, not by the 833 by Scotland Yard, in conjunction with the Stûreté and Russell Pasha in Egypt. As a preventer of war, which was the main object for which it was set up, the League of Nations was a really grisly failure. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I am coming to that aspect of the subject in a moment. For a long time the League was moribund, and now it is virtually as good as dead. There are many who are trying to resurrect it from its ashes and are doing their best to increase the strength of the old League, or to form another on the same model.
The conception of the League is no new one. It has been tried before several times in the history of the world. The last example, before the present League of Nations, was at the time of the Holy Alliance in 1815, when the conquering Powers set up a grand alliance which they dignified by the term "Holy," and which had precisely the same fate as the League of Nations. They tried to invest it with a sort of peculiar sanctity by calling it "Holy," and that kind of approach was followed by those who strongly supported the League of Nations. If any of us dared to suggest that the League Covenant was not the Fortieth Article of religious faith and was not set up with the same idea of holiness we were fiercely criticised. I would like to quote what was said by a distinguished writer of the last century and to show its applicability to the League of Nations. He said:The Treaty of Holy Alliance was, in fact, the beatitudes translated into political terms and declared to constitute the politics of the civilised world. It became a jest, when to a document with such an ideal were attached the names of such eminent authorities on religion and morals as Ferdinand of Spain, Louis XVIII of France, the Czar of Russia, and the Emperor of Austria.The League of Nations followed the same idea. The ideal behind the League was generous, noble and humane. It was a misguided though honest attempt to set up a new and better world than that which broke down during 1914–18. I hope that no one who disagrees with me will think that I want a sort of international anarchy, a sort of general smash and grab with no form of international co-operation or relationship. That is a perfectly absurd view and I should never for one moment be a party to it. Obviously in the long run, international relationships must base themselves on some international code. As 834 the Noble Lord said, one of the real causes of the last war and of this war was the breakdown of international law and order. It is like the base metal driving, out the good currency. That is the danger in which we now stand.
In reply to a supplementary question which I put to him the other day the Prime Minister said that the League of Nations would have been all right if it had been supported. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought I should get some cheers for that remark. I do not agree with that view. I think it quite conceivable that it might have stumbled along for some time if the United States had been a member of the League from the beginning, but she was not. In order to have the slightest chance of success, any League must be world-wide. It must contain every State including strong States such as ourselves, the British Empire, Russia and the United States of America. Otherwise, and this is what in fact happened to the League, it becomes nothing but a large alliance instead of a small one. There are some people who claim that a large alliance is better than a small one but I disagree with them for the good reason that in order to have any system such as the League we must be able to rely upon the good will of every individual member of it and upon the armed strength of every individual member. As the history of the League shows the members had not in each case the good will and in extremely few cases really had the armed strength.
The result of all this was that one of the main crises that came upon us was when we found ourselves in the peculiar position of having something like 50 obligations and only one asset, France, which subsequently proved to have been rather overvalued in the balance sheet. Hon. Members of this House, and a number of people outside, have said that His Majesty's Government were responsible for that situation—or a series of Governments in this country. It is the usual thing to buy a car with a bad engine and then blame the chauffeur because it breaks down. I would claim that the League broke down not only because of the failure of support abroad, certainly not because of the failure of the support of a succession of Governments in this country, but owing to a fundamental unsoundness of the conception on which it was based, as 835 I shall try to show. A reasonable accusation which could be made against a series of Governments in this country would be, not of failing to support the League, but of clinging to it far too long when it had been shown to be a dire failure. All the evidence merely goes to show that His Majesty's Government at the time would have been very wise to withdraw from the League when the United States of America refused to come in.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
In 1931, when Japan attacked China, Mr. Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, although the United States was not a member of the League, offered to take every action which members of the League took against Japan.
§ Mr. Petherick
It is just possible, although I had it in my notes to refer to that, that-might have escaped me had the hon. Member not mentioned that point. I would like, if I may, to debunk that suggestion so often put forward before. I say that His Majesty's Government of 25 years ago should have withdrawn. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member will have a little patience I will deal with him faithfully in a few minutes. He talks quite a lot, but someone else is talking just for the moment. The British Government at the time would have been wise to go out of the League when the United States refused to join at the end of the war. The faith in the League on the part of a good many people, in fact most of the people supporting it in this country and elsewhere, reminds me of a story I heard last night which was given to me by a Member of this House. A distinguished foreign statesman of some 20 years ago, Monsieur Clemenceau, was talking about the League of Nations to a Member of this House of Commons, and he, having fought successfully through the great war, had not got many illusions left. He said that he used to go every night and stand in front of his looking glass and say to the reflection in the mirror "You believe in the League. You believe in the League. You believe in the League." It seems to me a lot of other people inside and outside this House ever since then have gone on—whether they consulted their mirror or not I do not know—saying "I still believe in the League. I still believe in the League. I still believe in the League."
836 I should like to show why the League is theoretically unsound. The idea of a world State is attractive on the face of it, but to my mind it is based on mathematics, a mathematical view of life on pure reason, and human beings do not conform to mathematics or to sheer, pure reasoning. The result is plain. I believe that you can forecast with a reasonable degree of safety what any person or group of persons or State or even Empire with whose tastes and virtues and prejudices and desires and history you are reasonably familiar may do in any given set of circumstances. You may be very often wrong, but you have a very good chance of being right. But when you are dealing, not with one person or nation but when you are dealing with a group of 72 States, containing innumerable individuals, and all with different aspirations, different desires, different histories, different prejudices and on top of that with tens of thousands of miles of frontiers which from the earliest ages of history have been constantly disputed, it is extremely difficult to know what will be the result in any circumstance from the whole global point of view and what they will decide in a dispute which may not concern them at all except indirectly. Hon. Members may say that there must be give and take in all these matters, but the whole of history surely shows that there has been very little willing give, and it has always been a question of take. From the times of the earlier conquering tribes to the time of the great wars of the Middle Ages and down to this day we have had a succession of ruthless rulers who, backed by ruthless peoples, have cast their eyes covetously on other States and in fact have overrun them.
Supposing a world organisation, a world court, was set up, this is where the difficulty arises to my mind. In theory that court, or Council of the League, or whatever you may call it, has to decide in any given dispute which of the two disputants is right and which is wrong, and the difficulty is that it has to decide in practically every case where there is no absolute right and no absolute wrong. As happened in the case of the Council of the League, it has not to decide on a legal, ethical or moral case. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it has to decide a case in which there is no basic right and no basic wrong. The League, to my mind, broke 837 on that, and any League or world organisation of a similar sort will break on exactly the same stone. The reason for that is that the decision of the court to which the dispute is brought must depend not upon any given international law but on the particular weight which the court or council may lay on one part or aspect of the case or another. It is difficult enough to get a true opinion even when the judges are entirely impartial, but when they are, as they must be to some extent, prejudiced by the particular aspect on which they lay most weight it is difficult to get a fair decision. An example is whether any given court or council lay most weight on geographical, strategical, philological, or indeed religious considerations. They have to make up their minds not on a case of right or wrong, but on a collection of facts placed before them, and practically every one of these facts is in dispute.
Another thing about which they have to make up their minds, and have had to do in the past, is how large a nation should be to be entitled to self-determination and how far a small effete race, sparsely populating a country, has a right to occupy it. If a large virile race wishes to colonise what are the rights of that strong, virile race when it has in fact colonised that country? Still another thing to consider is whether such a court is going to rely on a status quo, and if so where is the status quo to be placed—in 1815, in 1914, in 1918, or where? Any court must take a view, a point of departure, in order that it can give a reasonable sort of decision. Finally, on this point I would say that only the most difficult cases go to the court at all, and it has to give its opinion on a vague series of facts and ideas, and a decision not based in any way on any code of law, equity or principle of legality. In fact, it has to give the best judgment it can on the circumstances as produced. What is the result? One of the two disputants will lose, and that disputant will feel eternally aggrieved, and sooner or later these perpetual grievances will find vent somewhere or other, and the unfortunate way in which they find expression is war. Peoples will bow to their own law, they will defer to justice, they will in very rare cases give in and acknowledge international law, but what they will not give in to, will not defer to, it seems to me, is opinion, and particularly opinion ex- 838 pressed by persons of another nation with whom they strongly disagree. Therefore it seems to me that "The Times" newspaper was quite right when last Monday, in the course of an important leading article, it said:Can it seriously be believed that either the United States or Soviet Russia or Great Britain or the members of the British Commonwealth are prepared to make formal surrender of their rights of ultimate decision in' unknown contingencies on the issue of war or peace? If not, the attempt to travel farther along this path will lead only to misunderstanding and frustration.What is the inescapable conclusion which arises from that? It is that the greatest Sovereign Power that any nation enjoys is, in any circumstances which may arise which may bring about a great emergency, the power it has to make war or withhold a declaration of war. Nationality is not a doctrine as some 19th century writers try to get us to believe; it is a fact, and whether we like it or not it exists and the only possibility of making any sense in the world is that of recognising facts, ugly as they may be.
There is one more consideration. Every new organisation, whether it be in ordinary civil life or whether it be the League of Nations, must have a constitution. Therefore, it must be a written constitution because it is a new one. That constitution has to be drawn up by somebody, or some body of persons, or committee. What, in fact, happens in the case of every new constitution, national or otherwise, is that those who draw up the constitution, although they are chosen as being the best men available, have the idea that their wisdom will hold good for eternity, and that the set of conditions under which they draw up their constitutions will also hold good for all time. That is why they so often break down, because the world is always changing, and to change a written constitution is always extremely difficult. Those who wish to maintain things as they are—sometimes they are wrong, and I say that as a Conservative—are in a stronger position than those who propose a change its a constitution. The result is that you do not get any change and, if you do, it is only at the expense of a number of people leaving the organisation to which you belong and which they have perhaps assisted to set up. Here, as in the League, there is, and must be every time, an over-emphasis and an exaggeration of 839 legalistic rights, with the result that every time a dispute comes to the Council of the League there are delay, bad blood, backbiting, even if it is does not actually lead to war.
There are two grave practical objections, also. The slowness of machinery and slowness of action on the part of the League have been shown by the history of the League; and, secondly, in any grave dispute which is presented to the League, the League must intervene or go under. I come to the interruption of my hon. Friend. Both those factors—delays, slowness, and the necessity of intervention—held good at the time of the Manchurian crisis, in 1931–32. Who, looking back at that affair 14 years ago, would believe that it would have been possible for Great Britain effectively to intervene alone, with America, outside the League of Nations, on one side of Japan, and Russia, outside the League of Nations, on the other? We who remember the events of Singapore know that Singapore was not ready, and we know the difficulty of any great intervention, in the Far East or anywhere else, with bases many thouasnds of miles away from the scene of operation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will the hon. Member take note that in 1939 we intervened in the case of aggression against Poland, although neither America nor Soviet Russia was prepared to intervene?
§ Mr. Petherick
I am aware of that, but would it not have been better if at that time, we had had Soviet Russia and the United States on our side? The conditions at that time were absolutely hopeless; and, since then—this is where I come 'to my hon. Friend's interruption—in spite of the fact that we have been told, time after time, that America asked us to take strong action and that we refused, documents have been produced by the State Department in America, a copy of which will be found in the Library, which show that, far from being weak at that time, we had been almost reproved by the United States Government for going too far.
§ Mr. Bowles
The hon. Gentleman's earlier point was that the League would, possibly, have worked during the interwar years if America had been a member. Now he is trying to say exactly the 840 opposite. I ask him now to give an answer to this question: What was the reply to the request made by the United States Government, to this country and to the other members of the League, to come in with them as a whole, to stop any Japanese aggression in Manchuria?
§ Mr. Petherick
To take the hon. Gentleman's second point first, he is effectively answered by what I said a few minutes ago—that, in fact, it did not happen. If he will go to the Library, and read the documents, he will find that what I have said is correct. His other point was that I had suggested that, with America in the League, the League would have been a success. I never said anything of the kind. I said that, if America had been in the League, it might have stumbled along, with some difficulty, and possibly for some time, but the eventual result would have been exactly the same. May I ask hon. Members to consider what might have happened in 1931 if, instead of having a League of Nations, before which this dispute was put, and which took a long time to consider it, and then did nothing, we had had an alliance between the British Empire, the United States, and Russia, and, if they had not only acted as we are hoping they are going to act in Europe in future, but if they had acted together in the Far East would Japan, if the three countries had taken a strong line, have dared to continue in her aggression?
There is nothing wrong in power per se. One can even go further, and say that the balance of power is wrong only if that balance is maintained precariously between two sides which do not fight each other only because they are mortally afraid of each other. If that balance is maintained by one side which is strong, there is some hope for the world. We are told during every war that we have the most marvellous allies, and that they have a monopoly of all the virtues and graces, and then, when another war comes along, we are told the same thing about another lot of allies. That rather cynical remark will, I hope, reinforce what I am going to say in a moment. There is a great advantage in having your allies on your flanks, so that you can move together, but there is another advantage if your ally is a strong one, in having a second ally on the other side 841 of the enemy so that you may squeeze him between the two of you. Sometimes there are difficulties arising between the three members of the triple alliance. As our triple alliance is right, from the point of view of keeping the peace of the World, is it not possible to build up, on that foundation, something durable, something based on mutual interest? Necessity makes strange bedfellows, but there is no reason why the bedfellows should kick each other in the back during the dark hours, or why one should get up early and pinch all the breakfast. I hope that after the war these three allies will continue the association they have made during the war, in which they have suffered so greatly.
I think we have to go further in our peace system. I think we must have a series of regional pacts. One device suggests itself to a good many of us; that is, an alliance between Great Britain, France, Holland and Belgium—which, curiously enough, happen to be the four great Colonial Powers of the world, and which could combine in their oversea Colonies as they combine at home. They should have a regional pact, not for vague, sentimental reasons, not because they were all boys together in the last war, but built up on military strategy, each contributing so much to the common defensive pact. I believe that there is a chance that, with that sort of alliance, we might get the backing of the United States, in exchange, probably, for a complete guarantee to defend the United States in the Pacific if she were attacked by Japan. That is the sort of scheme which some of us have in mind for keeping the peace in future. It is no good hitching your wagon to a star, as some hon. Members are inclined to do, particularly if it afterwards turns out to be a shooting star. I know I have spoken too long, but I wanted to make a coherent case against such a rigid system as the League of Nations. I have tried to show why not only in theory but in practice, such a system is theoretically unsound.
The Prime Minister said that the League was not supported. The reason is that the nations of the world knew that, in practice and in theory, it was unsound. Now we are to have a new world organisation. We have not been told what it means. I suppose it is going to be a featherless phoenix—a featherless, egg-bound phoenix at that—fluttering 842 feebly out of the dead ashes of the League of Nations. I do not see any hopes for the world in that. I gather from the Prime Minister that we are not committed; and, indeed, we ought not to be tied to some rigid system, which has always failed in the past, until the people of this country, and, indeed, the peoples of the Empire, have been consulted in the course of an ordinary general election, to take place after the war. We do not want to wake up one morning and find that we are tied for ever to something that will not work, and which, even if it did, would only make for more wars. I am certain that Russia, for one, will not go into any such scheme. "Izvestia." stated the other day that Russia would not join the I.L.O., as long as it was an appendage of the League of Nations. Governor Bricker, Presidential candidate for the State of Ohio, said very much the same sort of thing. I do not believe that our people ever liked the League. I know that I have spoken too long—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I have the support of an hon. Member for at least one of my remarks. Russia is realistic; she is very wise. We should be realistic too. She is all the time regarding her own safety; she is quite right to regard her own safety. All three of the great Powers must have regard to their own safety. They must also have regard to their own honour.
Let me say a word about Poland. How should we feel if we were asked, at the end of the war, to give up East Anglia to our Allies, and to get back the Ukraine instead? I think that if Russia is approached sensibly, she may think very differently about all these problems from the way she is thinking about them now. If Germany is completely crushed, Russia may think, as we do, having a lot of experience, that it is no good allowing a number of Eires to clutter up your doorstep. It is by no pedagogic system, born in libraries and on demagogic platforms, that we are going to maintain peace in the future. It is only by mutually growing respect, restored respect, for inter. national law, international commitments and international honour. I believe that that restoration will be a slow and laborious process, but if we do that, and if we try to build up from the bottom, and not build down from the top, then, I believe, there is some hope for the world.
§ Major Vyvyan Adams (Leeds, West)
I hope to establish a precedent and be brief. Seldom have I heard so outspoken an argument in favour of complete anarchy as has just fallen from the hon. Member who spoke last—anarchy internal, personal and international. This, the hon. Member said, is an old House of Commons, and his constituents in Penryn and Falmouth must have been interested at the last General Election when he described what he called the ugly facts about the futility of the League of Nations, which, I am sure, must have fallen from his lips.
§ Major Adams
I am very glad to hear it. The hon. Member was largely echoing an observation made by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Cary). I do not understand what exactly the hon. Member was attacking. He complained that the League had no power to enforce its will. I do not understand what he meant by the League. Did he mean, I wonder, the Covenant of the League of Nations, or the States Members of the League? Obviously, the Covenant, being a mere document, could not enforce the will of itself against anybody. Yet, if the hon. Member will look at the Covenant of the League of Nations, he will discover that it contained full provision for the restraint and punishment of the aggressor. I refer him to Article 16 of the Covenant. Did the hon. Member, I wonder, mean the States members of the League? They had ample power—which cannot be denied—to enforce their will until they lost their self-confidence and so their authority.
When we hear this tedious tale of the failures of the League of Nations we should remember that it is, historically, untrue. Let me ask hon. Members to recall the early days of 1935 when, beyond question, the collective system stopped two wars—on the occasion of the Saar Plebiscite and on that of the dispute between Hungary and Yugoslavia. It cannot really be argued that, in the autumn of 1935, there was not at the disposal of the States Members of the League an ample reserve of power to deal effectively with the Italian aggressor, nor that., at the beginning of 1936, the States Members could not have collected the power to kick the Germans out of the Rhineland when they broke the Treaty of Locarno. The 844 fact is—and it must be re-emphasised in the interests of truth—that the States Members of the League lacked the necessary courage and determination to apply the Covenant. If hon. Members are arguing for a change of name and for the pooling of force I am with them every time. If, on the other hand, hon. Members imagine that we shall ever have an ordered world without some form of collective security I cannot begin to agree with them. What principle could civilised man possibly accept other than the dedication of the strength of all to the defence of each?
Defence against what? We had an answer given by the Prime Minister today. It is a very subtle and insidious danger which we should do well to remember. The Prime Minister said—I think the first time it has been stated from that Bench—that, after the war, we would not allow a form of Fascist Government to be set up in any country with which we had been at war. At last—and I think this is significant, for it is the first time we have heard anything of the kind—we have an official repudiation from the highest possible authority of the doctrine that the internal affairs of other countries are no concern of ours, and that was the fallacy, I submit, which did more than any other single illusion to produce this war. As I listened to the Prime Minister, I thought it must have occurred to him in the small hours of the morning, that the success of the revolting Spaniards under General Franco, himself once a creature of Mussolini and Hitler, seriously endangered our own Mediterranean security.
I wish to refer to something said by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicholson) who is always so interesting. The hon. Member implied, and I entirely agree with him, that we needed, in these declarations from our Government, something rather more than bare bones. A little more flesh on the skeleton would make the subject more lively and more attractive. I suggest that there are certain questions which might now, at this stage of the war, conveniently be answered. They arise largely out of what the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) said in the speech which I know the whole Committee enjoyed very much. The first question is—what contribution is Britain prepared to make in the scheme against aggression? There are two forms which this contribution might take. In 845 the first, the political aspect, it could take the form of this question: Are we, or are we not, in future, going to take instant action against the aggressor? It would be in common, of course, with other powerful States, and we must act from power, not from weakness. I hope the answer to that question will be "yes," but it has not yet been given. The second question is this. What measure will Great Britain and the Dominions contribute? This is very important. I hope we shall shortly have a Government declaration stating how strong Britain intends to remain in the immediate post-war world. I hope that we shall see that we are most formidable—one of the most formidable of the victorious Powers.
Confidence in our intentions to-day and to-morrow will be raised if, now, the Coalition Government, which includes a number of very honourable Socialists—I do not want the House to misunderstand me, but I have heard leading Socialists, great leaders, say on platforms in the city which you, Major Milner, and I, represent in common, that they are not prepared again to see the army sink to the low level that prevailed before 1939—if this Coalition Government, comprising Liberals, Socialists and Conservatives, declared at once, and without hesitation, that all young men in this country will be required to undergo adequate naval, military or air training. Let no one say "This is not a threat to anybody." It is a threat. I intend it to be a threat—a threat against the aggressor. And, unless we have this force, all the threats in the world are so much hot air.
This then is what we have to do—to see that our policy is advancing beyond what I am afraid has prevailed throughout the war hitherto—a series of generalities. Sometimes these generalities have been embellished and embroidered by the wit and humour of the Prime Minister, but so far we have had no real advance beyond generalisations and excellent intentions. We must say that we wish, by this physical means, to produce security, as well as to preach it. Such a policy is going to cost money. We are going to have a far higher level of taxation in order to produce this security after the war than prevailed before it. I suggest that we ought to make the public familiar now, with the idea that both the training and the war-like stores, which will be necessary to raise our Forces above the pre- 846 war level, will cost a good deal of money, so they will have time to get used to the prospect of footing the bill.
I want to say something rather more domestic about the Empire Conference. All of us were glad to hear of the unity of principle that emerged from this Conference, and we all hope that that unity will persist, but I would like, with the greatest possible respect, to utter a slight word of warning. The British Commonwealth or Empire to-day consists of a number of units which are nation-conscious. All of them are conscious of their own nation-hood, and I do not think we should hope for, or expect, the kind of unity or harmony among members of that Commonwealth that you find in an orchestra which is implicitly obedient to its conductor. It is far too much to expect from the British Commonwealth of Nations that Australia, Canada or South Africa would always and invariably respond to the wave of the wand in Whitehall. Inded, one of the most interesting features of the old League of Nations, over which we have been singing so many funereal and obituary hymns to-day, were the occasional friendly variations of view between the Mother Country and one or other of the Dominions of the Commonwealth. Between the units of the British Commonwealth, after the unifying experiences of 1914–18 and between 1939 and to-day, we need very little more than a common basis of loyalty. Good nature and good tempered agreements to differ, whether in the council of the international authority or in the council chamber of the Empire will injure nobody, and will indicate health and vitality.
I do not quite understand what is obviously troubling the Prime Minister in his anxiety about Poland. I ventured to say something on this subject on the last occasion when I spoke on foreign affairs, and I do not apologise for repeating it. It was that it was not for Poland alone that we went to war. I entreat the Government not to allow our unparalleled cause to be reduced to the dimensions of the Polish Corridor. We are not fighting to preserve frontiers which have been fluid for centuries. Indeed, our moral case would have been no less strong if, in 1938, we had not stooped to Munich, even supposing that the alternative had, at that moment, meant war. We are fighting to destroy aggression, to batter down 847 Hitlerite Germany. We have fought to defeat Fascist Italy and we fight to defeat an aggressive Japan. We have not been fighting merely to restore Abyssinia, or Greece, or Belgium, or Poland. These motives are only incidents in what we should never forget is a very great crusade against unprovoked aggression. When we speak of Poland, I suggest it is foolish to turn away from what is, quite clearly, the Russian point of view. It can, quite simply, be stated in this sentence—that she wants, between her centres of industry and administration, as much territory to intervene between her and the evil centre which caused this war in Germany.
§ Major Adams
What is wanted is to deprive Germany of any territory required to satisfy that view, and I submit to my hon. and historical Friend, who is one of my own Members of Parliament, and whose conduct I am therefore very keen to watch, that the Eastern frontier of Poland should go West and that East Prussia should go to Poland. The larger the German Reich, as the history of the last quarter of a century has shown, the greater has been the danger. I believe this is a view which is gaining acceptance as the war proceeds—that if you allow German sovereignty after this war to prevail over as wide an area as it did in 1939 nothing is more sure than that we shall have a third German war. And that is something well worth trying to prevent.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
After having listened to the last two speeches I am driven to the conclusion that the Members who have spoken recognise clearly that this Empire and the British Isles cannot be defended on the cheap, as has been suggested by some Members of this Committee. The League of Nations was an attempt to provide a cheap defence of the British Empire, and to get control of a number of States within that body which could be utilised for our defence, without having to pay for that defence. If hon. Members desire an Empire they must recognise that that Empire can only be defended, in the final analysis, by force and that the force must be created in the shape of the weapons of war if the emergency should arise. That 848 is not my own expression and desire. It must be recognised by Members of the Committee that I am against anything in the nature of Empire, while I am all for the free association of the English-speaking peoples, forming an entity and co-operating with the rest of the world in trying to outlaw war for all time.
The hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major Adams) has given us the usual moral cause. He says that we did not go to war for the defence of Poland. That is handing out to Members something that every person in the country realises. This country did not go to war merely for the defence of Poland, but one of the things for which it did go to war was the defence of Poland. To say otherwise at this stage would condemn us morally in the eyes of a large number of people in this country. There is the danger presented to the nation and the world of succumbing to German military power, and there are the methods employed for under-mining and overcoming resistance in the various countries. Is the hon. and gallant Member satisfied that Russia is not performing the same function; that Russia is not also attempting, by the creation of quisling Governments, to undermine the will to resist of internal organisations, and then, in the name of independence, moving in and creating the same circumstances as were created by Germany previous to the war? There can be a case for going to war to resist aggression and the insidious methods of Germany, but there can be no case for refusing to recognise the selfsame methods when they are employed in Poland and elsewhere by Soviet Russia. You lose your moral case entirely and also the will to resist.
The Prime Minister gave us a description or survey of the position in war, but omitted to state all the great difficulties that are being encountered. There was the Teheran Conference, a report of which I read last night. After reading it I had the feeling—if I am not being too jocular at the expense of a person who has gone—that it might have been a spiritualist circle, with the late Ramsay MacDonald controlling the planchette that wrote that Declaration. It was most ridiculous and silly, prescribing no principles or moral codes of any kind. Probably it was intended to be that. What happened at Teheran, and what happened 849 at the various other conferences to which the Prime Minister has gone? I ask this question in relation to Japan. If the Foreign Secretary were here now, I would like to ask him about Japan. There are a few questions which should be answered in order to satisfy the people of this country and of the world. Was Russia asked about the position in relation to Japan? Does she intend to enter into the struggle to suppress the activities and the aggression of Japan? If not, why not? It is well known that Stalin refused to come to conferences because he could not be included in a party that was dealing with the Japanese struggle. It would be an unfriendly act. He could not discuss anything which dealt with Japan while the Japanese Ambassador was sitting in Kuibeshev and the Soviet Ambassador was at Tokyo.
We are told with regard to China that Chiang Kai-shek has an army of 250,000 according to some and of 500,000 according to others, fighting against the Communist army of China. Who is financing and arming this Communist army? Has Stalin any part in arming and financing this Communist army to fight China, and to stab China in the back, when she is engaged in her struggle with Japan? These are things which the country has a right to know. Chiang Kai-shek is one of the Allies in this struggle. There is the question of Poland, and the Prime Minister can speak of these other States such as Lithuania. I remember when Poland was invaded by Russia the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hare-Belisha) writing in the "News of the World" to the effect that we should have sent 35,000 troops to fight Russia. They talk of Finland now, so that anyone might think that Finland was the aggressor. The Prime Minister said that Russia had been very tolerant to Finland. That was not so, when Russia invaded Finland. Finland is only defending her national existence and her boundaries, against aggression and against Stalin, at the present time. Finland was prepared to go out of the war if her national entity was recognised by Russia.
These things have to be said. Soviet Russia is going to make great inroads into Europe because nations fear to stand up to her and speak to her in the language that she understands. I have had experi- 850 ence of the party of which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is a member. I used to work in unity with the Communist Party, when sent by my own party. There was one thing I recognised about it at the beginning and of which I warned my party. I said, "You can never satisfy these people. They are out either to swallow you up if you resist their policy, or to slander and libel you if you fail to accept their policy. Therefore, you have to stand up to them as men and fight them because that is the only method." The same method is employed by them all over the world.
It was said that 8,500 Polish officers were destroyed by Russians, but nobody in governmental circles may mention these things now. We have to be kind to Joe, in case he walks out of the party. Therefore, we did not say, "Joe, you and your fellows murdered 8,500 Polish officers. Why did you murder them?" Why—because it was a question of destroying the ruling class of Poland. Poland had to be destroyed as a Polish national unity and the only way to destroy it was to murder the ruling class of that country. There was the creation of the Polish national army on Soviet territory with Communist quislings. They were prepared to march into Poland to set up an independent State. I have no great amount of time for the Polish Government in London or the Polish Government at any time. I have in this House often expressed my views about the Polish ruling class but that is a very different thing from destroying the national outlook and entity of the Polish people. The Communists tried to destroy them. Propaganda goes out and the Polish people ask for an inquiry into the allegation that 8,500 of their officers were found murdered. Then Russia gets all flurried. They have been accused of this, and therefore they repudiate the policy of the Polish national Government in London.
We have also had the question of anti-Semitism. There has been a tremendous lot of anti-Semitism in Poland, there has always been. Anyone who has read the history and record will agree that there has been anti-Semitism. Polish Jewish soldiers came to London to have a showdown, and to demand that they should be transferred to the British Forces. Many people in this House and the country are aware that the Communist party 851 in this country had a hand in that. I am told on very good authority that they paid the fares of the men to come to London, because it was part of their instruction to work for the denunciation of the Polish Government in London.
Then there is the recognition of Tito and the report to-day that Mihailovitch has been overthrown. Mihailovitch is not of my way of thinking. My way of thinking is that every section, in every country, has a right to be defended by this House and to express itself. If there is a struggle internally in Yugoslavia it becomes a struggle of two sections with different ideologies, the one trying to put their feet on the necks of the other people and the others resisting. Therefore, they are drawn from the struggle against the external enemy, because the internal foe is being armed and financed to put the country under an ideology which most of them would refuse to accept in Yugoslavia. Revolt took place in Greece. The King of Greece was being financed.
Then wa have the French National Committee. Are the hon. Members who demand recognition of the French National Committee so sure that the French National Committee should be the Government of France? Who knows? If hon. Members say we are going ahead with the war, in order to place Germany under heel, and to create a fresh democratic power in Germany, then France ought to be taken in charge by the Allied Powers and the stage should be set for a proper democratic trend in Germany, with an election to decide the government of the country.
Who are some of the French National Committee? An application was made by Moscow for an individual to be on the French National Committee who had actually run away from military service when this country entered the war. After having run away to Moscow and having been denounced for running away from military service, fie wants to appear on the African stage as a liberator of France with the young men of France who have fought since the beginning. The people who, to a large extent, were responsible for the failure of France to stand up in the military struggle were the Communists of France who coined the phrase, "You had better live under Hitler, than die under Daladier." To this country I 852 would say: You are in grave danger of economically surrendering your place to the United States of America and of surrendering politically to Soviet Russia. If we go to Germany what is going to happen there? We are going to be in the most tremendous mess this country has ever been in, and the war will be nothing to the difficulties after the war. You will have civil war right over the Continent, because there are elements in those countries which will not have such an ideology imposed upon them.
I have said before that I believe in Socialism but I do not believe in Socialism with a tommy gun. I do not believe in imposing my will upon people who have not agreed to a change and transfer of power. In this war, I see this gradual development taking place all over the Cohtinent, drawing Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Rumania and Albania all into this common struggle, this civil war, which is going to be worked out in its most brutal and acute form. That is being imposed on Europe and at this stage the Prime Minister says, "There is nothing for it but the abject surrender of Germany in this struggle." Let me say this—I do not want to be misunderstood: People have talked, in this country, about the armed might of Germany, but they have never talked about the armed might of Russia. Yet one has been the natural result of the other. If you are going to disarm Germany completely, are you going to allow Russia to retain her great military strength and arms? If so, after this war, Stalin will be able to carry on from one end of the Continent to the other, through the Balkans, and place the whole of Europe under his totalitarian form of bureaucratic government.
Those are the dangers I see, and they have to be stated. It is not very popular at this moment to draw attention to them because there is a tremendous admiration for the Red Army and the effort it has maintained. But do not let us be carried away by admiration for somebody associated with us, and lose the finer things that should come out of a struggle of this kind if you entered it on a real moral basis. The argument put by a number of hon. Members to-day has been, "We must have moral power." Yes, have moral power, but keep your bombers too, and keep your battleships at action be- 853 cause you are not entering into any new order after this war. If you are to maintain your present Empire, in the position you are taking up to-day, with the Polish Government, there is nothing for it after this war—if there is not some form of international agreement among the people of this world—but to maintain force. Disarmament has always been a convenient doctrine and policy of this country. The Labour Party, for example, between wars are opposed to armaments. They are against the creation of weapons that could be used in war. They gather round them the Anti-Vaccination League and the Vegetarian Society, and they say to all the old ladies, "You know there is no need for bloodshed. Maintain yourselves on moral force and appeal to the peoples of the world." Then the war comes and they say, "It was not we who let down the nation; it was the others. We will join the Coalition Government and help to defend the Empire." There has been a refusal to recognise facts. I think the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has subscribed to it in a most extreme manner, which would almost make him eligible to be a member of the Primrose League.
§ Mr. Shinwell
But my hon. Friend must be much more specific than that. Will he refer to any particular statement I made which would make me eligible to join the Primrose League?
§ Mr. McGovern
My analysis was made through reading and listening to the speech of the hon. Member, and I would advise him to go and read it if he is in any doubt about qualifying for the Primrose League.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I ask the hon. Member to be a little more specific, and not to indulge in general allegations which have no foundation at all? If my hon. Friend wishes to make an allegation, will he substantiate it by producing some evidence?
§ Mr. McGovern
Really my hon. Friend is indulging in too much by-play and evasion. I said that I had heard his speech, and the general tone of the statements in that speech were, in my estima- 854 tion, such as would qualify him to join the Primrose League, and this was said only in passing, regarding the Empire. Also, many of the newspapers of this country said the same thing, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) said it also.
Passing on from that, may I say that if I believed in this policy of Empire, I would go to the country and say, "We have to be prepared to defend this Empire and there is nothing for it but for the young men in this country to be ready to do military service. We have to foot the bill for the instruments which will carry out the policy while trying to ensure peace. If that fails, then, in the last analysis, we shall be reluctantly compelled to use force. Therefore, the force has to be there, in order to be used in such a situation." That would, be my attitude. I could not subscribe to Empire and be a pacifist, or be against the rearmament of this country. I say, therefore, that there has to be a new trend of thought and action if, in this country, there are large parties who believe in this policy of Empire. They cannot, between wars, dissociate themselves from the responsibility of defending their Empire if the eventuality arises.
I rose chiefly for the purpose of asking the questions that I have indicated in general terms. Will the Foreign Secretary tell us whether Russia was consulted in connection with the Japanese War? What is her attitude towards it? Who is financing the Communist army fighting Chiang Kai-shek? Could he give us a clearer indication of how we stand in relation to all the little States over which so much blood and sweat have been lost in this House? For example, how do we stand in relation to the independence of Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Yugoslavia? Can he give us an unqualified statement in this House that we stand for the complete independence of these States —not for the creation of Soviet "stooge" Governments but for the complete independence of the people of those countries who have drawn up their own Governments. In my estimation you are marching towards a show-down. You are evading the issues of the present moment, but they are coming faster and hotter on your trail as the war comes to a conclusion. I would not be surprised if it ends before October of this year. If it does, you will 855 have a tremendous responsibility for the settling of the affairs of Europe and the Balkans. As I see it, the lack of decisive war declaration and power at this stage, will prolong the period of bloody struggle and civil war throughout the Continent and throughout the world.
Mr. Wedderburn (Renfrew, Western)
The independence and candour of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) are always most refreshing to hear. I have listened to parts of his speech with a considerable measure of agreement. Sometimes it occurred to me that he too might be trying to qualify, if not for membership of the Primrose League, then of a kind of independent Primrose League which might put him into the position of being able to preach Conservative doctrine with complete disregard for the official leaders of the Conservative Party. I do not wish to speak for more than a few minutes, and I hope that the Committee will allow me to divert its attention for a short time from what has so far been the main current of this Debate in order that something may be said about our Far Eastern Ally, China, to which the hon. Member for Shettleston made some allusion. My own information about the Communists in Northern China is more than a year old, and is, perhaps, rather out of date by now, but I do not think there is any reason to suppose that the Chinese Communists are being armed by the Russians. My own information is that they are poorly armed, indeed, and have practically no equipment at all. I do not think that we have enough material to debate China. My only reason for referring to it is because of the recent war news from the Far East. For seven years now the Chinese people have been holding out, almost unarmed, against the immensely superior mechanical power of the Japanese aggressor. Now it seems, from the news of the last month or two, that they have suffered further incursions into their territory, further massacres and atrocities and migrations. What is more, they have no prospect of any speedy deliverance from the terrible sufferings which they are having to endure.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. J. J. Lawson) and I went to China the extraordinary kindness and altogether unusual honour with which we were treated, were accorded to 856 us, not on our own account, but because we were representatives of this House, and I know the House is duly grateful to the Chinese people for the manner in which we were treated. It was evident to us that they were very anxious to know when they might expect some measure of assistance from their European and American Allies. We, like they, began this war very ill-armed, but the experience we have had has been one of growing strength. We have felt and seen our own strength increase every month as the war has progressed, whereas the Chinese, for seven years, have had to go on fighting with nothing but an inadequate quantity of rifles and machine-guns. We took very great care not to give them the impression that the strategical picture was likely to alter in the near future, because we thought such an impression would have been false. We told them that for strategical reasons, we thought it necessary that Germany should be beaten first, which might take a long time; that after that, it would again take time for our forces to be assembled in the Far East, and that the struggle there might be a lengthy one.
We did not try to raise their hopes, but we did say that the British people drew no distinction of a moral kind between Germany and Japan; that we were determined to continue the war until Japan had unconditionally surrendered and that it would be necessary to deal with Japanese war criminals in exactly the same way as German war criminals and to take the same measures to prevent Japanese re-arming, as we would take in Europe against Germany. It was satisfactory to us that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary should have met General Chiang Kai-shek last winter, at Cairo, and that a statement should have been made on behalf of the British and American Governments defining our war aims in the Far East. As for our relations with China, taking the longer view, the Chinese expect and hope that after the war they will do very much what Russia did between 1920–40. They want to industrialise their country, including part of their agriculture, and by very much the same methods as have been followed by Russia—although they do not favour quite the same political system—they want to emulate the economic achievements of Russia. They think that with their population more than twice as great as Russia's 857 and their natural resources as great, and with the industry of their peoples probably greater than that of most of Europeans, they will be able to out-strip Russian progress both in speed and in volume. Some people regard this as a dream not likely to be fulfilled, and I am not going to be foolish enough to make any kind of prophecy to the Committee. But I will say that we should make a mistake if we were to base our foreign policy in the Far East upon the assumption that China will always continue to be a weak and disorganised Power.
For the present they are going through a very bad time, and it will be a long time before we can give them effective help on a really major scale. In the meantime, I hope the Committee will allow it to be said that while Chinese patience may not receive its reward for a long time that reward is certain to come in the end, that our hearts are with our Chinese Allies and that we are resolved to see that in this war their victory is our victory and that our victory will be theirs.
I do not think I need apologise for this digression from the main theme of the Debate. I do not wish to draw the Committee away from a review of European affairs, and I think the Prime Minister's statement was one which met with general satisfaction in most parts of the House. He pointed out that one result of the Imperial Conference had been unity among the Governments of the Empire about our foreign policy. What a very significant thing that is, not only for our own Empire but also for collective security, which will depend so much upon the combined and concerted action of the British Empire, which is always, rightly, held up as a practical example of a League of Nations which has had a real existence for some considerable time. I think it is a very great advantage, both a present and a future advantage, that this Imperial Conference should have resulted in unity in principle among the Dominion Prime Ministers about the kind of foreign policy that we ought to follow.
I think the majority of the Committee also agreed with what the Prime Minister said in his catalogue of our relationships with foreign countries in Europe. It would be a great mistake to be grudging in acknowledgment of the advantages that we have derived from Spain. We may get further advantages from them before 858 the war is over. The Prime Minister was also right to be candid in expressing his regret that Turkey has not given us more assistance. That is another country which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and I visited and, if I had time to give a report of our visit, I think the Committee would see that the Turks are certainly not pro-German. There is no, doubt that their sympathies are on our side, but it is regrettable that they have not seen their way to provide us with a fuller measure of assistance of a belligerent kind.
The two points in my right hon. Friend's review most likely to cause tension between us and our friends are Poland and Yugoslavia. On Poland I only want to put forward one personal opinion, and I entirely admit that there is a great deal to be said on both sides. My own view is that, quite apart from any question of territorial compensation, it would be a good thing for Europe that Poland should have East Prussia. It has always seemed to me that, since the Germans have removed I understand some 20,000,000 unfortunate Europeans from their homes to Germany against their will for forced labour, when it suited them, we might quite well allow 2,000,000 Germans to be removed from East Prussia when it suits us. As for Yugoslavia, I have always thought this primarily a military question. I do not think I have enough knowledge to criticise the political side of it. In this country we know even less than is known in some others. In America I understand that the communiqués of General Mihailovitch are published in the newspapers, but we are never allowed to see them in our newspapers here. It would be rash if, without full knowledge, we were to say anything against what we are advised is the best course of action on military grounds.
But on the political side there is one thing which ought to be said. In 1941 it was still thought in most countries of Europe that the Germans were on the winning side and we were on the losing side. That is what the King of Bulgaria, the Rumanians, Hungarians and Italians all thought, and they all acted upon it and joined with Germany. But the young King Peter, although it must have seemed to those who surrounded him that the Germans were more likely than we to, win the war, came out on our side and 859 did what we wanted him to do, and we are under some obligation to him, whatever the course of events may have been since then in Yugoslavia. You have only to think what might happen in another war supposing this situation were to arise again. Should we have let him down, it might be said. "It does not really much matter what you do, whether you collaborate with the aggressor or not, because if you remain in your own country you will be called a quisling and, if you leave it at the request of Great Britain, you will be called a de-partisan." We have an obligation to help this young King in his efforts to unite his country, and I am sure the Government will carry out that obligation.
The only thread of continuous controversy in the Debate has been what is perhaps a slightly academic one, the controversy between those who think we should have collective security and those who are more inclined to think that we should rely on our own strength, with appropriate military alliances. I do not really know that the difference between the two points of view is so wide as it appears to be. My own feeling is that we shall not get a system of collective security ready made. We shall have to begin with alliances, I hope with the United States—we have one with Russia—and I hope with other countries in Europe. Out of that we may hope to build up a system of collective security, but it will perhaps take a very long time to do. What we can all agree on is that in any system, however much it is collective, however much it is particular, we must be strong. We must have an efficient Army, we must have a large Navy and we must have a very large and powerful Air Force, with bases in all parts of the world. The foreign policy of the future will depend very much on air power, and if a very great proportion of the air power of the world is British, I think the prospects for the existence of a certain amount of freedom and peace in the world will on that account be much brighter.
Mr. John Dugdate (West Bromwich)
I want first to say a word or two about the Prime Minister's speech, in particular his reference to France, and I should like to add my humble request to that of others that the Prime Minister should take steps to see that Britain and America 860 and Russia afford the earliest possible recognition to the French Government. I know it is said that one has to be very tactful and very careful not to offend the susceptibilities of our great American Ally, but my experience of Americans is that they like blunt, plain speaking and they do not like people to be too tactful with them. They consider that what we call tact is what they call "high hat," and they dislike it intensely. I would ask the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary if they cannot be a little more definite in requesting that the American Government agree with us in recognising the de Gaulle Government as soon as possible. There are many things that can be said against de Gaulle, but he did stand out in 1940 as, indeed, the Prime Minister stood out, and we must never forget that. He has as much right to be called a representative of France as certain other leaders, such as the members of the Yugoslav Government, have to be called representatives of their countries. If we are not going to question their bona fides, I cannot see why we should question the bona fides of General de Gaulle and his Provisional Government.
My main object in rising however is to turn the attention of Members in the direction to which it was turned by the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn), namely, towards the Far East. The Prime Minister omitted any reference to the Far East, and I can only assume that he did so because the Foreign Secretary will deal wtih the matter. I know that he would not wish to appear deliberately to have left it out. The hon. Member for West Renfrew talked about the Chinese struggle. I thought some of the details about that struggle were not to be published because they were too terrible to be made public, until I read an article in the "Sunday Dispatch." As they have been made public, therefore, there is no need to be silent about them. That article said that China had two machine guns per battalion and one rifle for every five men, and that she had equipment all along the line on that scale.
I would ask whether it is not possible for us to do something to help the Chinese in both equipment and moral support. Last autumn I asked that a small token force should be sent to China; not a large force, because I know that we have plenty of other things to do with our troops, but 861 a small force, it may be only a brigade, to take part with General Stilwell's American troops in helping to defend China from the inside. I was told by the Foreign Secretary that we could not do that, and the main reason given was that it might interfere with American susceptibilities and that the Americans might think we were interfering with something which it was their duty to do and something which was their sphere.
Since that time I have been to America and have had the opportunity of asking a number of leading Americans what their view was on this question. I will mention only one, because he happens to have been in China recently. In spite of his recent decision not to stand for the Presidency, Wendell Willkie still does, I think, have a large following in America. He represents a big section of the people in that country. I said to him, "What is your view on this question of sending a small force of troops out to China? Do you think it would be interfering in some way with America's duties and responsibilities?" His answer rather surprised me. He said, "Far from that, the attitude of the ordinary American would be that, if you do not send troops, you are not fulfilling your obligations in that part of the world." He is only one man, I agree, and he does not represent the whole of America, but I would ask the Foreign Secretary to consider whether the American people might not take the view that we were shirking our responsibilities by not sending troops rather than the view that we were interfering with America by sending them.
I submit, however, that there are other things we can do apart from sending troops. I suggest that we might improve our supply organisation in China. I know that recently we have had the Needham Supply Commission which has gone out there and which, I think, will do much to improve the supply position in China. In the past we have seen some terrible cases of failure to send the supplies that China needed. I know the difficulties of sending supplies. I know that it means sending aeroplanes over the top of the Himalayas and that there is little space for supplies. That space, however, is not utilised to the best possible extent. The Chinese have asked for doctors from time to time, and they have been told that they cannot have them because they are needed for the 862 second front or for something else. With all the doctors we have at our disposal it is hard to make the Chinese understand that there are not two or three doctors available to go to China. It would be worth while for the Foreign Secretary to suggest that in future we will, as far as we can, put into the planes that are sent across the Himalayas such supplies as the Chinese Government ask for and not such as we think best for them to have.
The Chinese want not only force to help them, but moral support and evidence of British friendship. Do they get it to-day? I am not so certain that they do. Take the case of the Ministry of Information and the British Military Commission in Chungking. They are composed to a large extent of Shanghai merchants in uniform. Are these the best type of people to represent us in China? Those of us who have followed Chinese public opinion will know the views expressed about these Chinese Shanghai merchants, who used to stand at the world's longest bar day after day talking about the failures, the stupidities and, indeed, the alleged dishonesty of the Chinese people. These are the men whom we have selected to serve as British representatives on the Ministry of Information and the Military Mission in Chungking. I will quote in support no less a person than Madam Chiang Kai-shekIt ill becomes the Shanghai merchants to come to Chungking now in the name of assistance to free China.That is the view held by the wife of the Generalissimo. We should take the same course with these representatives of the Ministry of Information as we take with foreign embassies. If a minister or an ambassador is distasteful to the foreign Government to which he is accredited, he is removed. I submit that these people are distasteful to the Chinese Government and should be removed.
I would ask for yet another reinforcement. While paying the highest possible tribute to our Ambassador and to his magnificent work in difficult circumstances, I submit that he needs reinforcement from above. During these past months, indeed, during past years, we have seen prominent people from other countries, particularly from America, going to China. Yet no British Cabinet Minister has been out there. No British Minister has been out there. I 863 know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) was there at one time, but only temporarily and not in an official capacity. The hon. Member for West Renfrew and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. J. J. Lawson) have been there, but no people with responsibility in the Government have been there. The Americans first sent out a private individual, Wendell Willkie. He went out on a mission similar to that of the right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol. America has now decided to send no less a person than the Vice-President of the United States. The President considers that the Chinese situation is so important that they should send the second most important person to represent America to discover what is going on in China. I would submit that His Majesty's Government should send out a man of Cabinet rank to China, so that he can make similar inquiries and see what can be done now to help the Chinese.
Lastly, I would suggest that there should be a special Cabinet Committee to deal with Far Eastern affairs. Maybe there is one now, but I think the Chinese have the impression that their affairs are settled at a very low level and not on the same level as are the affairs of, shall I say, the U.S.S.R. or America, that they are in fact dealt with largely by civil servants. I hope that the Foreign Secretary can assure us that there will be in the future a committee on Cabinet level to deal with Far Eastern matters. China is fighting under very great handicaps. She is short of food, clothing and materials. I ask that she may not be short also of good will.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
The Committee and yourself, Major Milner, should be relieved to hear that my speech is going to be very brief and that I am not going to refer to anything that has been alluded to previously in the Debate. The speech of the Prime Minister, particularly the early part of it, will relieve a good deal of anxiety, but there is one source of anxiety which will not be removed, and that is related to the present lack of information on all subjects about the course of events abroad. We are all in the same boat. We have a sort of conspiracy of good 864 will, but I think we are also a very long way down the slippery dope towards keeping things out of the newspapers because they are not pleasant. It is most disturbing to meet Americans or foreigners, or British subjects who have been abroad for a long time, and to find how much more they know—or think they khow—than we do, or perhaps how much better sources they have on which to form a judgment. A great deal of acute anxiety has been caused in this country since it has been realised that we do not get enough information, and I would ask whether the Foreign Office could not let up on its discreet directives to the responsible Press.
I come on to my other points. The first is that ever since the war began there has been one very simple rule in foreign policy, which is to avoid doing what the Germans wanted us to do. I think that can be narrowed down to saying, not to do what Goebbels wants us to do to suit his propaganda. I want for a moment to examine how far we have failed to follow this incontestable rule. Take first the case of Germany itself. In Germany to-day, Goebbels says all the time through the Press and radio: "You have now no choice but to follow us. We are all in the same boat. You people who have had your houses destroyed, unless you stick by the Nazi party to the end, you have no chance of surviving. Your only hope is to carry on to the bitter end." That is generally believed in Germany to-day. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs knows that I have been fortunate enough to have some recent first-hand information out of Germany. That is the belief of the man in the street, even the man who is sick and tired of the war and hopes to get out of it in some way or other soon. He thinks that he has no option.
What do we reply to it? We say: "Unconditional surrender." Surely we could qualify that and make it more intelligible, and not play into the hands of Goebbels. That is what I am complaining about. Instead of drawing the Germans together, as Goebbels wants us to do, we must seek to separate them and draw them apart. Let me put it the other way round. What we are doing at the present time with great success is to soften the Germans in a military potential, particularly by our terrific bombing, and 865 to harden them in a moral sense. We are neglecting Napoleon's incontestable dictum as to the value of the moral in relation to the physical. I am convinced that unless this point in our propaganda announcements is not altered very shortly it will cost needlessly tens of thousands of lives in the coming offensive, because we shall be up against people who feel themselves cornered and who will fight to the last man, because they see no other way.
Surely, after the last war, we made one very simple, fundamental mistake in our treatment of Germany. We failed to bring home to the German people the fact that they were utterly defeated militarily. We failed to destroy the nucleus of militancy as we should have done and as we must do this time; but at the same time we did not take steps to ensure that the great mass of the German people had a fairly rapid chance of material recovery. The effect of that mistake was that we merely drove Germans, who for the time being were a bit tired of war, into the hands of the General Staff, for the next attack. This is the fundamental mistake that we must avoid this time. Let us make certain that we utterly destroy every vestage of militarism, but let us at the same time give the German people a fair prospect of living when they have reformed themselves—not before. There has to be a drastic purge; let us make that plain; but that nation, being what it is, will not mind a good many people being executed if the rest can get away. In the meantime, let us not play the Goebbels' game of keeping them together.
After all, there are only two logical alternatives; either we are totally to destroy 80,000,000 Germans, or we are not. The Prime Minister said three months ago in this House that we were not. Surely there is no argument, in that case, for not telling the Germans, in specific terms and quickly, what we are going to do. I say again, to use a horrid phrase of the time, let us plug this information all the time in our B.B.C. British broadcasts. All the information from Germany to-day suggests that the Germans, oddly enough, believe what we say. Let us put it across in the B.B.C. broadcasts here, not only in our German broadcasts, because I think the German people believe our own broadcasts even more than they believe the broadcasts to Germany. Let us show them that there is no incompatibility be- 866 tween unconditional surrender and the Prime Minister's statement made in this House three months ago.
The other subject I wish to touch upon I have referred to before in this House, and it is the position of the so-called satellites. I think that a number of Members have read during the week-end what I think is an extraordinarily good pamphlet on the subject of Denmark by Christian Möller. It not only explained the position in which Denmark found herself in 1940 but illustrates the position in which all the little countries of Europe found themselves at that time. I think we differentiate most unfairly between what we are now pleased to call satellites and the occupied countries. There is a difference, but it does not pay us to overdo it. In that awful time after the collapse of France, everybody in Europe thought that we were beaten. The examples before the small countries of the consequences of resisting German demands were discouraging, and we must not be too hard on people who took what then appeared to be the only possible course to save their womenfolk and children from extermination. We are being very unfair, in my submission.
What of Austria? We have said that Austria is to be independent, but there were a great many more Nazis in Austria in 1939 than in any other of the small countries of Europe. I spent a certain amount of time in Austria. I did not mix in their politics at all, but one saw certain reasons why these people took this line; but there are more Nazis there than in Hungary. Why do we brand Hungary as a satellite? Why, only a few weeks ago the Germans occupied the country by night with five divisions. Was that action necessary to a country friendly to the Germans? Hungary is as much an occupied country as Denmark and Finland. Could we possibly expect Finland, in view of what occurred to her in the last six years, not to have taken up the line she did? She could not help herself. How could Finland extract herself now from the German pocket? She cannot do it. She cannot feed herself. She has no fuel. We must make allowances for the position of these people.
§ Lieut.-commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
Would the hon. and gallant Member develop that point a little 867 further? He says that Hungary is as much an occupied country as Denmark. Surely that is entirely misleading. The acid test in these matters is, surely, whether troops of these countries are fighting with the enemy or not.
§ Wing-Commander James
I agree that I overstated that; I was using too broad a brush. Nevertheless, I stick to the point that, by comparison, the Hungarian position resembles much more that of Denmark. What have we done to detach these people from the Germans, to give them hope, to avoid playing the German game? There have lately been published with the authority of the Government two declarations. The first was published in "The Times" under the headline "Official Joint Declaration." The main headline is, "Warning to Satellites" and the statement reads:It is officially announced that the Government of the United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R. and the United States have made the following declaration.Then follows what in my submission is one of the most foolish statements of policy I have ever read or hope I shall ever read. It starts:Through the fatal policy of their leaders the people of Hungary are suffering the humiliation of German occupation. Rumania is still bound to the Nazis in a war now bringing devastation to its own people. The Governments of Bulgaria and Finland have placed their countries in the service of Germany and remain in the war at Germany's side.Then, later on, it says, refering to Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Finland, paragraph r, sub-paragraph:These nations still have it within their power by withdrawing from the war and ceasing their collaboration with Germany and by resisting the forces of Nazism.and so on. In my submission they could not have it in their power. It is not in their power, and to say that is to bind them to the German chariot, and is a fatal mistake from our own point of view.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Is it not as much in their power as it was in the power of the Italian Government to make peace with the Allies?
§ Wing-Commander James
Before we landed in Italy? The hon. Member's timing is wrong. Could the Italians have broken away before we landed? Certainly they could not. That is the comparison to make. I submit that the declaration 868 to which I have referred was an unfortunate one which plays into Goebbels' hands. Do let us keep in the front of our minds that the enemy is Germany first, last and all the time, and that these other people are really subsidiary to our main task. Let us keep our eye on the ball. We are fighting to free Europe, not to enslave it, to free these people, not to enslave them, or to let anybody else enslave them if we can help it. We have our honour to consider, and we must be very careful that we do not compromise for the sake of temporary military advantage. I submit that there are three steps we should take and could take right now to facilitate the operations of the Second Front. The first is to announce clearly and continuously that we are out to restore the liberty of these people and to guarantee it so far as lies in our power. Secondly, that we shall punish the Quislings or, better still, facilitate their punishment by their own people. After all there are not many of them. Thirdly, and I submit that this is a practical step, we should announce the formula of what I would call a pre-Amgot Mission, a mixed Allied Mission, British, American and Russian, to accompany the troops into those countries to see that the promises we make to them are in fact carried out. That is surely the way to make their position and our position easier. If these things are not done I am convinced that our Second Front task will be very much harder.
In conclusion, as the Prime Minister made reference to him, I might be allowed to say one thing about that remarkable Australian who died last week, Arthur Yencken. Until the war is over it is not possible to record what the British war effort owes to that man. I would just record one characteristic sentence of his. I was complaining to him, about the middle of 1940, of the way in which he was exhausting himself by overwork and also deeply dipping into his private means to supplement the official entertainment allowance granted in that period. His reply was, "0Don't you worry. It is my contribution to the British Empire in which my children are going to live."
§ Mr. Raikes (Essex, South-Eastern)
A Debate of this character is almost always an occasion for all parties to justify their own actions in regard to the League of Nations. It seems to me that at the present time our task is to try as far as 869 we can to seek to avoid the mistakes which brought this war about, and to remember that it is very easy to sow the seeds of another war even before the Armistice. We heard a very remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) earlier today, a speech which, unfortunately, will probably be not nearly so well reported to-morrow as many less interesting ones. I do not intend to deal with the aspects he dealt with in regard to Russia and Poland. Of our failures at the end of the last war I place first and foremost the failure to deal with German war criminals and to make Germany realise she had been properly beaten. I am convinced that we must have the whole question of war criminals treated as part of the Armistice terms rather than have it left for peace treaties, which may not be signed for a considerable period.
I think a great mistake after the last war was the forcible incorporation of various minorities with Powers they never wished to join, with the result that there were a number of new States set up which were not stable States and which held within their orbit people who never wished to belong to them. The result was that there was political dynamite with which Hitler did much to destroy everything that had been done in the course of the last 20 years. I am certain that if we are to see a happy Europe at the end of this war most careful efforts will have to be made to see that the peoples of Europe find themselves in the States in which they wish to live, and not within the States in which they have been placed as being most convenient in order to avoid trouble with somebody else in Europe.
I would like to utter one word of warning about the League. Much has been said about it. I do not propose to make a pro- or anti-League speech, but I do think that in the past the League has been assumed rather too much to be an end in itself rather than a piece of machinery designed to increase the chances of arbitration and reduce the chances of aggression. If we simply say, "Of course, if people had worked the League differently it would have been successful," if we build up the League in just the same form at the end of this war as it was built up at the end of the last one, it seems to me extremely likely that just the same weaknesses in human nature may materialise and may lead to the 870 failure of the League itself. That blessed phrase "collective security," which under certain conditions could mean so much, in fact did more to help aggressive States in Europe than anything else, because to a large number of peaceful States collective security was a good reason for leaving someone else to do the rearming they should have undertaken. I do not say that we cannot have some form of League. I am going to suggest the lines on which we might proceed in the days when the war is over. Do not let us forget that people have been told about the ideals for which we have fought the war. We went to war to restore the rule of law in Europe. It was those bright ideals which inspired our people in 1939 and which kept our people going in 1940. They mean that a State, whether it be a small State or a large State, shall have the right to live as the ordinary people within it wish to live.
Some people say that the small State is the cause of war. I have heard it said many times. The small State is so often the occasion for war because it is so tempting to the larger neighbour if the latter has aggressive ideas, but if you had a world of small States you would never have universal war. I suggest that the small States have to be made, in some way or other, less tempting propositions to their more powerful neighbours than they were before. The only way you can do that is to encourage the joining together of small and medium-sized States in Europe in some sort of federation for their own benefit—some form of regional federation, whatever larger bodies you may have over the top. If you had a small number of these States, well-meaning and bound together by a common policy for defence, they could, T maintain, be secure themselves, because they would be too strong to be split by one wedge though not strong enough to intimidate any great neighbour. You would, by this means, achieve something which the League had completely failed to attain in the 20 years between the two wars.
Finally, I would say that it is easy enough to talk of this federation and of the spirit of the Europe that we want to see after the war, but it lies in the hands of this country and of this Government, more, I think, than anywhere else, how the future of Europe is going to materialise. The alternative to the peace- 871 ful federation of States, having equality and protection against their neighbours, is the "sphere of influence," which means, in the long run, that you will have the same small Powers of Europe, grouped either under the influence of Russia in the East, or under the influence of Britain, and perhaps America, in the West, and that is a policy that must lead to war. I think that, for that reason, if you accept the "sphere of influence," rather than try to maintain in Europe comparatively large bodies of small States strong enough to defend themselves, you will have no moral reason whatever for opposing certain States, which make use of the "sphere of influence" policy in a way of which you do not approve.
§ Mr. Raikes
You must, of course, have a degree, but that is a very different thing to the sort of sphere of political influence, which may be nicely done between friendly Governments and in which a small State might be regarded as a satellite of a great neighbour. I believe that we have a great deal of influence on our great Ally Russia, and whether we exert that influence, in these times, is going to be the cross-road between war or peacemaking in Europe in the next 20 years. Collaboration between great democracies in making a free Europe, in which there should be no fear of terror of war, like those fears and terrors that have raged through Europe within the last 20 years, would be, from the longer point of view of Russia herself, an advantage. On the other hand, Russia might say that it is easy enough for Britain and America, with no particular interest in Europe, to talk of no territorial aggrandisement, but that the Soviet Union is a European Power. If the Soviet, instead of collaborating, makes the end of this war a little bit like the ending of the last, when a good many territories were taken by the victors, they will cause a great deal of bitterness.
I heard one hon. Member opposite say that a convenient thing to do with Poland would be to move the boundaries, so that Russia took Eastern Poland, and Poland took Eastern Germany. Well, that is not the way in which to solve the problem. It is the way in which you are going, once again, to incorporate dissident min- 872 orities in States in which they do not wish to live. True, there are small States that are backward and not strong enough to exist by themselves. All I say in regard to small minorities of that sort is that they should have some form of free plebiscite in which the people should have the right to decide, themselves, in which State they desired to be incorporated. If you put matters in that way, you will do something, at least, to solve the minority problem, and if you can do something to solve the minority problem in Europe, you are going to strengthen the ordinary medium-sized States in Europe, and the strength of that State is vital in time of peace. That depends very largely on ourselves. If we are prepared to wait until the end of the war, we shall be told that we are humbugs, and nothing will be achieved. I rarely give a quotation, but I see the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs is in his place, and I would remind him of what a famous predecessor of his, Lord Palmerston, said in 1848:I hold the real policy of England is to be the champion of justice and right. As long as England keeps herself in the right, as long as she wishes to permit no injustice, as long as she sympathises with right and justice, she will never find herself altogether alone.If the present Foreign Secretary can lead this country with the same idea, I venture to suggest that many of the dangers that now afflict us will be swept away, and our country will, once again, lead Europe and civilisation towards the paths of peace.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I have listened to nearly the whole of this Debate, and I must say that parts of it have pleased me very much. The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) will forgive me for saying that I was delighted with some of the sentiments on world organisation for peace he expressed, because they coincided with what I want to say. The next thing I want to say about this Debate is that I am satisfied that we have collected here to-day some of the ingredients that this country will import into the Peace Treaty when it is made at the end of this war. There is, however, one thing apparent in the Debate to-day. There is, obviously, a clash of opinion arising already between the Left and Right parties in the Commons. Let me give one or two instances. From some of the benches opposite we have 873 had the usual talk of punishing the whole of the Germans and of trying war criminals—
The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) made almost the whole point of his speech that it was no use trying to establish a world organisation for peace, and the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), if I did not mistake him, wanted to punish the Germans too. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate some of the speeches delivered in this Committee to-day tended that way—
§ Wing-Commander James
The hon. Member has completely mis-quoted me. I said that drastic punishment of evildoers and leaders must come first, and then there would be a chance of leading these people in a better way.
§ Mr. Davies
I would like to know how the hon. Gentleman will decide who are the evil-doers; the evil-doers are not all, by any means, on one side during a war; you cannot possibly calculate how many criminals there are in Germany or in any other country at war. What I fear is that if there is any punishment forced upon Germany as is suggested, it will come back on the working classes of this country. Statesmen who govern the several countries at war never, somehow, punish each other. I once stood outside the palace where the ex-Kaiser whom we were going to hang lived in exile in Holland and said that I would not mind hanging there for ten years myself. What happened to our own miners at the end of the last war? The German miners were working furiously for a pittance providing coal for nothing for France, Italy and Belgium, and 15,000 miners in my division were unemployed and tens of thousands more miners in South Wales in the same plight. That was a consequence of the spirit of revenge introduced into the Versailles Peace Treaty. I should like the Committee to remember those facts before importing revengeful provisions into the Peace Treaty that is to come. I want them to understand, too, the boomerang effects of anything of that sort on tens of thousands of workpeople in this country Whole districts were made derelict and shipyards became idle for years because we got coal and ships for nothing from 874 Germany after the last war. Some of the more sensible people in this country are now saying that we should not ask for reparations in kind this time; we should demand that German workers should be transferred to devastated territories and work there to rebuild them. Let me ask honourable Members not to have anything to do with a proposition of this kind. What would the working-classes of this country say if thousands of them were unemployed and German workmen were brought to this country to rebuild London, Manchester and Coventry?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Why does the hon. Member assume that thousands of people in this country will be unemployed after the war?
§ Mr. Davies
Because I do not believe that any Government, either in Germany, France, Italy or Great Britain, will be clever enough, at the end of this war, to harness the economic and financial consequences of this war. Let me give the hon. Member a case from my own division. Between the two wars I had 15,000 miners unemployed, with 22 pits closed down for good. There are no industrial prospects in my division, of any kind, at the end of this war. As soon as the manufacture of munitions is finished in my division, I know of nothing that any Government can do to find employment there. The hon. Gentleman must not be too clever. We can put any Government in power, but war must have its consequences. It destroys trade. Half of our merchant shipping is at the bottom of the Atlantic already. Where are we going to get ships to carry our exports at the end of the war? I was in this House when the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald stood at the Box, as Prime Minister, and said that the American Federal Reserve Board would not give us any more loans unless the Unemployment Assistance Board reduced benefits by 2s. a week. We are in the hands of the American financiers now, a thousand times more than we were on that occasion.
I am very apprehensive of the consequences to our people of this great conflict. Hon. Members must not mistake my patriotism when I talk like this. I feel so deeply for my country that I do not like to see it going down to poverty; I do not like to see it descending to bankruptcy. I feel there is a genius among our people that could bring mankind out 875 of this terrible conflict soon if it were properly employed. I know a little about Central Europe—mentioned in this Debate. I can never understand where we got the conceit that 46,000,000 Britishers can effectively police the whole of the peoples of that vast area. There are 30,000,000 Poles, 20,000,000 Rumanians; then there are Bessarabians, Transylvanians and many other races. I have been over some of those countries, and the Committee may be interested to know what I have told some of their leaders. Until the people of Central Europe learn how to tolerate each other's religion, language and customs as we do in these islands not all the power of Great Britain, the United States and Russia combined can bring them peace. Peace must always come from within and not from without.
I come now to other problems of foreign affairs. Some little time ago I secured 70 Members of this House to sign a Motion calling the attention of His Majesty's Government to some serious departures on their part from the provisions of the Atlantic Charter. What are those departures? First of all, the Prime Minister told the world that India did not fall within the provisions of the Charter, that Burma and no other British Colonial territory is within the Charter either. More than that, he said that as a matter of right, neither Germany, Italy nor Japan, nor any of their satellites, can come within the terms of that Charter. What does that mean? I can remember him standing at that Box and saying, "Let the Italians stew in their own juice." When we consider the exclusion of so many nations of the world from the Atlantic Charter the Prime Minister has said in effect that 50 per cent. of the human race should stew in their own juice; that these international provisions do not apply to them. I am not without appreciation of the difficulties of Governments in wartime. I know, too, a little of Yugoslavia where the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes and Macedonians are always quarrelling amongst themselves. I am doubtful if even Marshal Tito, the Communist, can ever bring them to live together unless they adopt, as suggested by one hon. Member, the federated principle to their State. The same principle should apply to Czechoslovakia as well.
876 I want now to say something else about diplomacy. Our Government seem to base all their actions on expediency. They have no definite set of principles to guide them in their diplomacy. I wonder whether they take note of recent events in the United States of America. I have been there several times and I know a little about the grand old Republican Party. I would ask the Committee to remember the tendency towards isolationism in the United States. I know that newspapers will say that the defeat of Wendell Willkie at the primaries did not mean isolationism.
§ Mr. Davies
The American newspapers, and some of our own, too. I receive newspapers from America by the way.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman, because in the main he and I agree on foreign affairs. At any rate he ought to agree with me on that issue. I am very much afraid that American politics are gravitating once again towards repeating what happened to the late President Wilson. Once the Republican Party disposed of Wendell Willkie it meant a throwback towards isolationism in America.
I agree with one or two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the benches opposite that there is little chance of a successful world organisation for peace unless the United States is in it. One hon. Gentleman—I am sorry he has gone out —delivered a very pessimistic speech on that score; he said that because of language, religious and racial difficulties we could never hope for a world organisation at all. If he has been to Chicago, New York or Philadelphia he has seen there every colour and almost every race living together in one city. Let me give another example of collaboration. People say that you cannot get these several nationalities to live and work together. What about Switzerland? The French, Germans and Italians are living together in Switzerland. If we come nearer home, we have the Welsh, English and Scottish people living together too.
§ Mr. Davies
I know that it is not easy, and it may comfort my hon. Friend when I say that "Haw-Haw" is neither a Scotsman nor a Welshman. The Foreign Office ought to have regard to these tendencies, especially in the United States of America, and in anything they could do to try to get the United States to assist towards this world organisation they would find the key to the success of such an organisation. Let me interpose for a moment about the suggestion that Russia should annex part of the Polish Ukraine. I have been there, too, by the way.
§ Mr. Davies
It will please the hon. Gentleman to know that I am as great a patriot as anyone when I am abroad. It may be of interest to him to know, too, that I had dinner at Christmas in 1938 with the arch-Isolationist Senator Borah, and he will be interested to know what I told him in reply to his criticism of Great Britain. It is the duty of the citizen of every country to try to keep his own country straight but when he is abroad to stand up for his country against the criticisms that are made against it. One suggestion was made that annoyed me about East Prussia. That is sowing the seed of the third great war in Europe. Can anybody imagine that the Prussians would live happily under the Poles?
§ Mr. Davies
Why on earth should it be suggested that people should leave their homes and be dealt with like chattels by the great Powers? I want to protest against the assumption of the great Powers that they are entitled to throw batches of the human race like goods from one Government to another without consulting the peoples. I do not think I am saying anything too strong when I add that the present proposal—because I am not so sure that Poland has asked for East Prussia yet—is about the most foul conception in the whole of this business and, at any rate, is against all the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
I wonder if I dare, as an ordinary individual, quote Clausewitz in support of what I am trying to say? He said "Wars are just the continuance of policy in other 878 fields." That is exactly what happens; and if the diplomacy of a nation is not straight and honest, then we are bound to have wars. President Wilson, soon after the last war, made a statement about the reasons for war: "The seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry." I wonder, therefore, whether there is any substance left in the statement that we went to war for the independence of Poland? Some hon. Members contradict that. Some hon. Gentlemen said that we went to war for other reasons entirely. Well, we led the peoples of these islands to believe that we went to war for the independence of the Poland of 1939, and now I doubt very much whether the British Government will have a word to say as to the kind of Poland that will emerge from this conflict. Stalin, I suppose, will determine all that.
I want, if I may, to strike a personal note. The Committee knows my views on war and peace and I have to thank it for its toleration. It is a great tribute to the House of Commons that it is tolerant; and when I have been to Central Europe and talked to some of the people in authority there I have pointed with pride to the House of Commons. If they learned the toleration that we exercise toward each other here, the sort of conflict we have in Europe at present would never have arisen. They must learn to tolerate each other as we do.
My last word is this: The common expression, of course, is that Hitler made this war. What is ten thousand times more important is to find out the causes that made Hitlerism. When the statesmen sit down in Conference, as they will do, to draft the next peace treaty they will not be concerned about Hitler and Mussolini; what they will be concerned with will be tariffs, trade barriers, commerce, shipping, banking, colonies, territories and frontiers. That is what they will be discussing. They will never say a word about fighting for freedom and religion either—that vocabulary will have passed away. I have been here for a number of years and I am older than most. I am sad beyond measure at the state of affairs in my native country. I do not like to see us going down once more into poverty and unemployment. I am afraid that General Smuts was right when he said there would be nothing in 879 our till when this war was over. I hope, however, that the British Government will take a strong hand to see that the poverty and unemployment which prevailed between the two great wars will not come upon us once again.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
I shall be brief but, as Mark Twain once said, I cannot guarantee that I shall not be tedious. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) mentioned the fact that he was old. Now a certain number of hon. Members on this bench have been classified as "young Tories." For myself, I insist on being classified as middle-aged, because I am certain that youth is a luxury which no serious politician can long afford. I think the hon. Member for Westhoughton did some hon. Members an injustice when he claimed that they all wished for the indiscriminate and ruthless punishment of Germans. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) put the case very well. Our bombing must be a terrifying experience for the German people at the present moment. They put up with it because they feel that the peace which is going to follow will be even more terrible perhaps than the bombing. I would say that perhaps the best formula to tell them now is, "Butter but no guns." For surely Hans Schmidt—or some typical German citizen in Essen—first got work in 1935 when Krupps started making howitzers or some such implements of war. Having assured him that in the peace he is going to have a job, but is never to be allowed to fight again, you might persuade him to resist with less determination than he does now.
The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) is temporarily not in his seat, but I must take him up on one point which be made and which was not challenged. He said the British Empire would never stand a second Singapore. Well, Singapore was captured and what has happened? Is Australia downcast or beaten? Do we see processions in the streets of Melbourne or Sydney asking for release from the British Empire? Not at all, the Australian lion roars even louder than the British, and I believe that no material disaster will ever rend asunder the British Empire, which is tied together by stronger links.
880 The Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) made this point in his interesting speech, that we in this island —some 45,000,000 people if you include Ulster—cannot hope to remain a great Power as long as we stand alone but, in conjunction with the British Empire and Commonwealth, we can exercise a tremendous influence. Surely one fact is obvious, that the British Empire and Commonwealth is a series of islands dependent primarily on air and sea communications. Now only one Power, if hostile, can interrupt those communications, and that is the United States of America. Fortunately, the United States and the British Empire are vitally important to each other, the one not more nor less than the other.
Let me try to illustrate my point by two examples. Let us imagine the impossible situation of war between the United States and the British Empire. Canada could not long resist attack. Australia and New Zealand would be isolated and, were an American fleet able to cross the South Atlantic, and establish a base at Dakar, then the route round the South of the Cape of Good Hope would be cut. But let us look at the other side of the picture. Have Americans ever thought what would have happened if Nelson had lost the Battle of Trafalgar? Canada would have doubtless returned to the French flag. I doubt if Napoleon would have ever considered the completion of the great Louisiana Purchase, and perhaps in Washington to-day we should have seen the Tricolour flying over the White House and America part of a great French Empire. America, in fact, as Mr. Lipmann pointed out, owes its independence entirely to the fact that at Portsmouth there was a strong line of British battleships throughout the 19th century.
Even in this war, what would have happened to America if Hitler had succeeded in conquering the United Kingdom? Imagine the scene at Washington if the news had been telegraphed through that German tanks had landed and, perhaps, copying the stategy of William the Conqueror, had swept over the Thames at Wallingford, and stood between London and the industrial Midlands. Many would have said, "The war is over; we must make peace with the new masters of the world." Others would have said, 881 "Tell the British to fall back to the Western ports, and we will try to supply them from the Atlantic." Surely, Mr. Lipmann was extremely right when he said that President Wilson entirely failed to convince America about the rightness of her entry into the last war because he relied on slogans—he used the words, "To make the world safe for democracy." Why, indeed, did the United States enter the war? Because the United States could not tolerate a strong hostile Power dominating the Atlantic.
If we wish to get real co-operation among the Allies after this war we must rely not on slogans but on practical facts. What does the slogan "make the world safe for democracy" mean. It means the possession of bases. None of us know what will happen in the United States after the November election. We do not know what President will he sitting in the White House, or what majorities will dominate Congress or what mood the American troops will be in when they return to their country. However, although the minds and tempers of people change, geography does not, and I therefore suggest that the most practical form of co-operation with the United States is to have a discussion now on the joint use of bases. General joint staff machinery is already in existence and surely it would be easy for that joint machinery to continue after this war. Thus, although a. majority of the Congress of the United States were hesitant about signing a formal treaty of alliance with this country, in fact practical co-operation would exist.
What briefly are our joint requirements? We, as a great air and sea Power, want strong bases in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. What does the United States want? Already we have leased to the United States the inner line of defences guarding approach to the Panama Canal, the series of bases and islands which run from St. John's, Newfoundland, down to Trinidad. Now the United States, as the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark said in his admirable speech, has begun to realise the value of defence in depth, and, after the war, we shall no doubt find America demanding bases in Greenland, Iceland and perhaps in the Azores and at Dakar. In the Pacific they will require similar bases. 882 Already they have the Aleutians and Pearl Harbour, but perhaps an outer line of bases would serve their interests, bases in the Bonin Islands, Formosa, Manila, Singapore, Sourabaya, and if we could reach agreement with the United States on the pooled use of these bases for after the war, I claim that this would be practical co-operation. Further, we should not confine this pooling merely to the United States and the British Empire, but to other Allied Nations.
What is the problem in Europe? It is this: We have a 20 years treaty of Alliance with Russia. Here again the interests of Russia and of the British Empire come together. It is certainly true that the great Russian Army has been essential to us in this war. What would we have done without the tremendous battle which 200 Russian divisions have offered to the German Wehrmacht? But what is the other side of the picture? Had Hitler conquered this island in 1940, and had we not been able to send supplies to Russia, I doubt whether she, even with her illimitable resources, would have been able to sustain her people single-handed against Germany.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is very important and I would like to get it clear. Is he suggesting that these bases should be in a pool of alliance or a pool of nations that happened to have been in alliance during the war? That distinction is important.
§ Mr. Kerr
I would start by pooling bases between the United States and the British Empire and then offering them on a reciprocal basis to the Soviet Union, and to other Allied Nations such as the Dutch. I would start by pooling them between the three or four great Powers which have been instrumental in winning this war and later offering their use in more settled times to other Allied Nations. When Bismarck came to power in Germany that far sighted statesman knew that the one hope for the German domination of Europe was to separate the East from the 883 West. A highly efficient general staff in Germany, in subsequent years, has seen to it that Germany enjoys every possible advantage from her central position, through her superb railway system and now through her air bases. Germany is the roundabout of the European traffic ways. To travel North, South, East or West you must pass Germany. If Germany is allowed to recover after the war she will be by far the strongest Power in Europe. What will help her? It will help her if England and Russia fall out.
§ Mr. Kerr
I beg the hon. Member's pardon, remembering that Dr. Johnson once said, that the best road a Scotsman sees is the high road to England. There is one thing which will encourage the resurgence of Germany after the war, and that is the lapse of the 20 years Treaty between Soviet Russia and Britain. Let us be quite frank about this issue. A great deal of suspicion exists on both sides. The Russians are suspicious of their Allies. They look back on history when numerous aggressions have taken place from the West. We on the other hand are not at all sure about Russia's ambitions in Europe, in the Balkans and perhaps in the Middle East. Therefore I suggest that the one way to encourage the removal of these suspicions would be to have a joint staff machinery in Europe just as we shall have in the Mediterranean, the Pacific and the Atlantic.
Make no doubt about the point, if that 20 years Treaty were to lapse the inevitable consequences would be either war against a resurgent Germany or perhaps war against Russia herself. If that Treaty lapses it will not be more than five or ten years before the sirens are sounding again in our cities, or ten years before German tanks are ploughing through the wheatfields of the Ukraine. Considering power in its naked aspect we must realise that this alliance is essential if Germany is the chief enemy. Now I am extremely worried about public opinion in this country after the war. We are such a kindly, tolerant and forgiving people. It is true that we have been bombed, but to the limited imagination of most people an aeroplane in the sky is an impersonal thing. We might feel different if German tanks had trav- 884 elled through the Kentish Weald, or the people of Sevenoaks or Canterbury had had Gestapo officers knocking at their doors.
Even now we have people protesting in the country about our Lancasters and Halifaxes bombing the vital industrial centres of Germany. If that is possible now I am more than frightened that it will be possible in 1960, when imagination has faded and the threat of the ever present Germany will not seem so terrible as it is now. If it is hard for people in Birmingham or Hereford to remember what a tremendous menace Germany is now, haw much harder will it be for the man in the Mississippi Valley, Detroit, or California to remember the dangers to his country. I feel that one of the main tasks of statesmanship will be to beat the warning tap of Drake's drum, in the years after the war, and keep people informed about the true facts of foreign policy.
Let us give up slogans, let us have no more of making the world safe for democracy. That means the possession of power and the possession of vital bases. The strength of a great country is made up of its industrial resources, its geographical position and its population, but there is one other factor, the character of its people. Now the character of the British people has been one of the dominating factors in this war. It is such that we can always tell them the truth, however hard it is. I would have this fact continually brought home over the microphone, in Parliament and on the public platforms for the next half century, that peace has its price, and can only be earned by personal effort, and that effort has to be made by each one of us.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I am particularly glad to follow the hon. Member because I find myself in entire agreement with everything that he has said. He talked about public opinion here. I should like to call attention to the state of public opinion on the Continent. It seems to me that during this Debate there has been a lot of academic talk about the League of Nations and, as one hon. Member said, some have been defending their attitude because they criticised the League, and others because they supported it. I cannot get away from the feeling that, possibly within a few hours, days or weeks, our men will 885 be going overseas on the gravest mission that any army has ever undertaken. What is going to be the attitude of the people in Europe when these men have gone? What can we do to see that the effort made by that army meets with the fullest possible success?
The days have gone by when our friends in the Allied countries came out into the streets and cheered when our bombers came across, because it is a tragic but inevitable fact that in the process of softening up Western Europe, we have to inflict a great deal of destruction and suffering and misery on our closest Allies. We have to face up to the fact that the Vichy propagandists are making the fullest possible use of this, and to some extent they must have met with success. Nor is that all. As soon as the invasion begins, our Allies will be faced, in some cases, with the problem of starvation. I was told the other day that it is believed that the stocks of food in Paris are only sufficient for 48 hours. In other words, as soon as the invasion begins, the Germans will pay no attention whatever to the requirements of the civilian population and we shall have, in the large cities of France, not only hunger but possibly actual starvation, and we shall have this appalling competition for shipping, between our requirements in munitions and arms, and foodstuffs for our Allies.
I do not remind the Committee of these points because I want to spread alarm and despondency—far from it—but because I want to suggest that the gravity of the situation in France makes the political lesson very clear. Surely, the political lesson is that we must hand over the full responsibility for the government of France to the French people as soon as is possible. I was very sorry to hear to-day that the Prime Minister could not go further than he did in that matter. I think, as the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) said in his admirable speech, that the time has very definitely come when General de Gaulle represents France as much as any other leader in any other Allied country. I know he is a difficult man. I met him first in February, 1940, behind the Maginot Line and had to stand far two hours hi the snow watching his beastly tanks going up and down a hill. I was clad only in an ordinary London suit and overcoat. He had a leather overcoat and high boots, and 886 I have had a certain resentment against him ever since. He is a difficult man, but every time we postpone the full recognition of the Committee of National Liberation in Algiers, we are playing definitely into the hands of the worse elements in the French Liberation movement.
I take the case of France as an illustration of our foreign policy generally, just four years ago the courage of the Prime Minister, wedded to the courage of the people of this country, carried us through at a time when nobody outside the British Commonwealth believed there was any hope, and if it were not for the memory of that courage I would sometimes think that the foreign policy of this country was frozen by fear. There is a certain fear of the unknown.
Events are happening on the Continent of Europe about which we do not know very much. As one of my hon. Friends urged a few moments ago, we ought, if possible, to be told more than we are told. I happen at times to write for the newspapers, and I think that sometimes I should write with much greater frankness and worry a little less about hurting the susceptibilities of some of our Allies. We are faced with a Europe which will have changed beyond recognition during these four years. Those of us who come in contact with any members of the resistance movements, or of any of the Allied countries, have all been impressed by that sense of a new era and the feeling that the people of Europe are on the march.
I get the feeling sometimes that the Government try to turn the clock back, or that they hope that we shall go back to the sort of conditions there were in 1939. The men of the resistance movements may not know very clearly what they want, but they do know what they do not want. As far as I can make out, they do not want a return to that corruption which often went by the name of democracy in their countries. They do not want kings, if the kings have only held power in the past with the help of dictatorships. I do not think they want dictatorship of any kind because they have seen enough of what it means under the rule of Hitler. I think that our anticlockwise policy has led some of them to fear that they cannot get the advice, guidance and help that they need here. All these peoples in Europe do look to 887 this country for advice. They know that if this country had not held out four years ago, there would have been no hope of their regaining their independence for generations, and perhaps for centuries. If they do not get the sympathetic advice from us that they want, they must inevitably turn to the Soviet Union.
I have felt throughout this Debate that one of the troubles about our foreign policy is the anxiety of a good many hon. Members about the intentions of the Soviet Union. We are told that the Greek national liberation movement is under the control of Communists, but there is only one member of the ten on the E.A.M. political committee who is a Communist. We heard this argument about Spain. We were told that the people of Spain on the Republican side were all Communists, and it was not true. The people of Spain and of Greece are not people to take naturally and willingly to Communism at all. It was not true in the case of Spain, and I doubt whether it is true with regard to Greece or Yugoslavia. It is difficult for us to know. When the hon. and gallant Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean), who has played so remarkable a part in Yugoslavia, comes back and gives his impressions about what is happening in that country, I am predisposed to accept them. Unless we give help to these new young movements, they are inevitably going to come under the control of the Soviet Union.
I am not interested in the slightest bit in power politics although a lot of my hon. Friends are. It is a legitimate approach to foreign affairs, but it seems to me that the people who mostly fear the influence of the Soviet Union are doing the most to extend its influence. I believe sincerely that there can be no major war in Europe if Britain and the Soviet Union are in agreement. For that reason I plead for a more sympathetic welcome to these new movements and a little less fear of them because their manners may be a little rough and they may talk the kind of language that we do not all like. If we do not get the support of these movements, the European Continent will be divided into two rival camps, with Britain on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. We shall be on the losing side, because we shall not be on the side of those great popular movements.
888 May I add a word about the Soviet Union? My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) told us a little time ago about the many places he had visited. I shall not try to compete with him in that respect, but I think I am one of the relatively few Members of this Committee who have been to the Soviet Union during the war and been for a short time on the Russian front. I was very shocked by some of the things I saw in Russia. I do not like the inequalities I found there, or the lack of respect for the integrity of the individual which, to me, is the most important thing in the whole of political life. I do not find that it is a country that a lot of my hon. Friends on this side of the House believe it to be. I say it quite frankly, because I am convinced that there cannot be genuine and lasting understanding between peoples if their relationships are based primarily on a misunderstanding.
But having said that, I would conclude by saying that I am absolutely convinced that the Soviet Union desires to interfere as little as possible in the affairs of the European Continent. I think that the interference by the Soviet Government will be in direct ratio to the amount of distrust that members of that Government feel towards British and American intentions. Also, I do not believe that the Soviet Government in the least want to see Communism established throughout Europe, and that if Germany were to go Communist there would be a considerable amount of disquiet in the Kremlin. Russia would see Trotskyists around every corner, even more than the Minister of Labour thinks he sees in this country. When I was in Moscow, I spent the whole of one day studying the propaganda posters. The Russians do a great deal of their propaganda by poster. Not once did I find a poster referring to Communism, although I found any number referring to Fascism. The whole line of propaganda was "Our Russia, Mother Russia"; so I do not believe that the Soviet Government desire in any way to see the spread of Communism throughout Europe.
So far as I can see, there is no fundamental, basic conflict between this country and the Soviet Union. There is a common interest, which is that Germany shall never again become so strong that she can be a danger and that she can bring all the smaller countries of Europe 889 under her domination. We have that in common, and we have no fundamental conflicts. Therefore, I believe, as I said at the beginning, that our foreign policy should be more sympathetic towards these great new movements that are passing over occupied Europe, so that not only shall we maintain the affection and the admiration of these smaller countries in Europe, but we shall avoid any serious conflict between ourselves and the Soviet Union. I want to emphasise the importance of the smaller countries of Europe. It has been encouraging to hear, during this Debate, very little talk about the three major Powers on the Allied side dominating the rest of the world. There has been a lot of talk about how we can help those other countries, and that is a very encouraging thing.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
A great part of this Debate has taken place on the assumption that foreign policy is something quite separate from domestic policy. I take the view that that is nonsense, and that foreign policy and domestic policy are two different sides of the same basic unity, and that both spring alike from the fundamental social ideas of the Government, the individual, the organisation, or the people concerned. I have no hesitation in examining those social ideas, even though it means going into the past, because those who disagree with the views which I hold are, in multifarious ways, going back into the past, to spread a wholly false idea about it. A legend is being spread that everybody in this country is really equally to blame for this war, because we all failed to realise how incurably horrible is everything German, and the unalterable villany of the German people.
A large part of this Debate seems to be based on the idea of keeping the German people down by force. A propaganda of hatred is being spread. I want to call attention to one very flagrant example of it, which appeared yesterday, in a newspaper controlled by a Cabinet Minister. Why he remains a Cabinet Minister I do not know; under the principle of collective responsibility, I think the Government are responsible for this sort of thing. The "Daily Express" yesterday produced a cock-and-bull story, to justify the suggestion that the loss of the lives of 47 officers in a German prison camp was the result of a mass murder, with guards 890 running riot, all allegedly based on the evidence of eye-witnesses in Sweden, all with the idea of stirring up hatred. The thing has been contradicted by the Air Ministry, and the "Daily Express," this morning, put that contradiction into a very small part of the paper. I cannot go further into the matter, but I give notice that, on the earliest possible occasion, I shall call attention to the position of Lord Beaverbrook. Which Minister will have the responsibility for answering I do not know. I think it intolerable that a man who conducts this utterly irresponsible propaganda, this vile sort of campaign, should hold a responsible position in the councils of the nation.
This analysis of the situation, that we are all equally to blame, because we all failed to see how intolerable the Germans were, is utterly false, and it leads to a completely false picture of the present war and a complete misunderstanding of it, and to gross errors in the politics of the war. Also, it is stirring up appalling dangers for the future. Those who hold this idea treat this war as a military struggle by the United Nations against Germany, Italy and Japan. The Prime Minister, whose social and historical sense seems to me to be by far the weakest part of his whole make-up, looks upon this war simply as a military struggle between the United Nations on one side and the whole of Germany on the other. He does not at all see, nor do many hon. Members speak as if they see, that this war is a part of at least 300 years of social history. For at least 300 years—and that, I would remind hon. Members, is an extraordinarily short time in human history —we have been living in the midst of a titanic revolution. It is the revolution for the whole of democracy—political, industrial, economic, social, and international. We need not for one moment expect that this revolution will be completed at any time within the next 300 years. Three hundred years is perhaps about the time in which it will be completed. Do not let us suppose that it will be completed in 50 years' time. Every major event in modern history has to be interpreted against the background of this mighty and beneficent revolution, which is going on and which has now reached a considerable stage of development.
In the Western countries of Europe and in America the bare skeleton of political 891 democracy was established about the beginning of this present century, In those same countries economic and industrial democracy had taken roots in the minds of men, not in practice, but as ideas, acceptable to influential minorities. The practice of economic democracy began only in 1917, in Russia. Although I am inclined to feel that there' is real substance in the criticism which the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) brought against Russia, I think he was speaking more of their failure to achieve a complete social or political democracy, and that he was not saying that the Russians have not achieved a very great advance in the way of economic democracy. Then, again, it was in 1919 that we first attempted on the practical level an international democracy. I am sorry that some of those who have poured out their cynicism and their contempt of the League of Nations in the course of to-day are not here, particularly the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick). I would like to point out to him that a very great difference between the League of Nations and the Holy Alliance is that the Holy Alliance was simply and solely an alliance between the big men at the top. The League of Nations, on the other hand, was the first brave attempt at a practical world brotherhood which carried with it the hopes and aspirations of thousands and millions of ordinary people. That is the difference between the League of Nations and the Holy Alliance.
These millions of people did not hold the levers of power in one country or another but the fact that their hopes and activities were not enough to overcome the cynical minds—the practical and realistic minds, I suppose the hon. Member would say—of such men as the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth, does not mean to say that the attempt will not be made again. It will be made again. This international democracy will be established either peacefully or in bloody wars which we shall be forced through by the cynical, timid minds of those who have spoken against this thing. This international democracy which made its first practical appearance in 1919 will be established.
Fascism, against which we are fighting, has got nothing to do with German blood whatever. Fascism is found in greater 892 or smaller degree in every country in the world, and Fascism is the most titanic counter-revolution in the whole course of history, just as the revolution in which we live is the greatest beneficent revolution of all history. Fascism was a counter-revolution against the political democracy of Western Europe, against the economic democracy of the East, against the international democracy of Geneva. It was against the Greek conception of the supremacy of human reason, against the Roman conception of the rule of law, against the Judaic conception of social righteousness as the supreme source of social wellbeing, and against the Christian tradition of love and brotherhood amongst ordinary people.
Fascism was against everything for which humanity stands, and that Fascism, present in every country of the world, is what we are fighting now; and, in relation to these facts I say—and, as long as the contrary view persists in its expression from so many sources, I shall continue to say—that we in this House were not all equally to blame. There were those of us in this House who, from the earliest days—I can go back myself to the days long before I was in this House, in a humbler but more interesting chamber in Oxford University—took part with the utmost vigour in condemning this damnable thing that was established in Italy. We did see what this beastly thing was and we did all in our power to warn the people. An hon. Member referred with the usual contempt to the organisation of the peace ballot. What was the organisation of the peace ballot? It was an organisation which showed that the overwhelming majority of the people of the country were prepared to stand against the threat of Fascism, if necessary by armed force. It was not a peace ballot; it was a ballot in which the people said, "We are ready to fight against this thing growing up all over Europe." But Lord Baldwin chose to lie and distort everything which the people were then saying.
We, who warned the country against Fascism, were out-voted in this House by a majority, who hoped that this thing could be used as a great bulwark against the great economic democracy of Soviet Russia. That was their dominant hope, and it was that hope which dominated foreign policy in the years between the wars, and which killed collective security 893 and the League of Nations, because any attempt to stand up against the aggressors at that time would have meant weakening this bulwark against the Soviet Union; and in countries like Spain, it would have meant letting into Spain ideas which were going to further this revolution towards democracy in the midst of which we live.
Foreign policy is to-day in the hands of the same sort of men as those who were moved by these ideas. They do their thinking in the same kind of way, and rather than survey the whole of the field, I want to keep to one particular corner of it and to mention facts of which I know. There has been an awful lot of woolly sentiment about this Debate to-day and very little attention to hard facts which belie some of the generous statements and hopes that are made. The facts that I am going to give have the additional advantage of being extremely relative to the immediate military campaigns which lie in front of us. The Prime Minister said he hoped that all hon. Members would be careful not to use any words which might make the task of our fighting men harder. I would never be tempted to speak at all in this Debate except for the fact that the actions of this Government, which speak far larger than my words, are already making the task of the fighting men infinitely harder than they need be. The country is not aware of the kind of things done in its name which are to-day as shameful as anything done by the Chamberlain regime before the war. They are as certainly building up the next world war as the things which were done by that regime led up to the present world war.
We put up posters in this country displaying the typical fighting soldier and underneath, apparently carved out of the rock, are the words "The Liberator." Our soldiers want to think of themselves as liberators because that is the greatest source of energy and enthusiasm for any army. They want to behave as liberators, and indeed, they try to behave as liberators. I challenge denial of my facts because I get them first hand on this matter. When our soldiers went into Sicily they did so as liberators. They were welcomed by the people. The scenes were described in the Press at the time. There were cheers and flowers and nothing was too good for our troops. These men behaved as every liberating army in history has always behaved. They went, with 894 their officers' approval, and fetched the political prisoners out of gaol, and perhaps a few other prisoners as well. They held informal elections in the squares of the towns and villages they occupied and immediately began to arrange the civil administration of the towns in the hands of the officers who were chosen in this informal but thrillingly democratic way. And then what? When the battle had moved a convenient distance forward A.M.G.O.T. arrived.
I challenge this. There is not one man in any influential position in A.M.G.O.T. whose past record shows that he understood and opposed Fascism before September, 1939. The supreme disqualification for the work of restoring order to the peoples who have been saved from Fascism appears to be the fact that you understood what Fascism meant when a good many hon. Members opposite were hobnobbing with it. The same is true of the new organisation G.5, which is, apparently, going to administer Europe and Germany. If that is not true, let the Government, in reply, mention the name of one man who has any influential position in A.M.G.O.T. or G.5 who has any public record of speaking and working against Fascism and against the policy of appeasing Fascism at any time before September, 1939.
How do these people behave? The first thing they do is to get hold of the Carabinieri Reali, who, of all Italian organised bodies, have the highest record of complete collaboration not merely with Mussolini but with Hitler and the Nazis. They then parade in front of the representatives of the Carabinieri Reali those prisoners who were released by the front line troops, and these agents of Nazidom decide which of the political prisoners shall go back to gaol. The complete administration of the whole district is then handed over to the nominees of the Carabinieri Reali, and the result is that the civil administration of Sicily and now of Southern Italy has fallen into the hands of the worst and the most disreputable Fascist gangsters and the whole thing is a most abominable and contemptible racket. This is quite true, I am not exaggerating it at all; people who have been there say that this is so. This is perhaps one of the most sinister things about it.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
These charges are so serious that I hope some reply will be 895 given to show whether they are true or not. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is a revelation to me.
§ Sir R. Acland
The next thing I say is that at the time the campaign moved from Sicily to the Italian mainland a General Order was issued—for which of course the War Office is responsible—forbidding the front line soldiers to act as a liberating army. They were forbidden to go near the gaols, forbidden to release political prisoners, forbidden to hold informal elections, forbidden to do anything of that kind, The excuse being that a few criminals might be set at large. Well, what does that mean? A few burglars, a few pickpockets might have been released before their sentences had expired, but that is what always happens when liberating armies march about the world in triumph and roll back the forces of tyranny; and how do you weigh a handful of private malefactors against the deliberately organised groups who have been running the counter-revolution against humanity for the last 20 years? How do you weigh them so that you hand over the government of a country to the latter in case you have prematurely released a mere handful of the former? Which is the greater damage? The premature release of a few prisoners, or the destruction of the enthusiasm of a whole people, and perhaps of a whole Continent? Because that is what has happened.
When we went into Sicily there was an enthusiasm which showed that we had potential Allies available to us all over Europe. There was unlimited support there for the Allied cause; unlimited potential inspiration for all the guerilla movements in Europe was to be found in Sicily. Instead of that, you have in Sicily to-day an utterly listless, hopeless, bewildered, frustrated people who do not see a halfpenny to choose between our administration and the administration from which they thought they had been liberated. This, of course, affects the whole of the partisan movement throughout Europe, starting with the Italian partisans in the North. Some of them who filter through the German lines come into contact with what is happening in the South, and then go back again. They cannot understand it. Some of them are beginning to realise that while their first enemy is still of course Germany, the second task they 896 have to look to is to prevent a sort of A.M.G.O.T. arrangement taking control of their country.
I must say I think the hon. Member for Bridgwater was extremely wise when he said that unless we can give these people a little more encouragement, where else can they look except to the U.S.S.R. for inspiration? But it does not just amount to giving them a little advice when they come to London. What it comes to is that we have to put men in control of this task of administering occupied territory who have some record of understanding what Fascism is. Unless you have shown that before the war you understood what the thing was, how in the world are you qualified to deal with territories when they are liberated from it? It is not just advising the guerillas and talking nicely and supplying them with a few arms; it is showing in our administration that we understand the sort of thing which they are groping after, because, believe me, one of the things the partisans are groping after is the internationalism of Europe. The Maquis, the Yugoslavian and the Northern Italian resistance movements are spreading their tentacles and becoming an ever-more widely embracing Internationale. This is the greatest hope for an international Europe—
§ It being two hours after the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House, pursuant to the Order of the House this day.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.